Philadelphia’s street-sweeping pilot program will expand to 14 neighborhoods beginning next week, and some residents will be expected to move their cars to help officials clean trash off the roadways.
Since the early 2000s, Philadelphia has been the only major U.S. city without a citywide street-sweeping program. The Streets Department announced Phase II of its pilot program this month, marking the first major expansion since Mayor Jim Kenney paused the fledgling effort at the start of the pandemic.
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The new street-sweeping season will run from April 4 through the end of November, operating Monday through Thursday, except for official city holidays. Parking in sweeping zones will be restricted between 9 a.m. and 3 p.m., but on a staggered schedule that alternates parking on either side of the street, as is done in other cities.
Here’s what you need to know about the rollout:
There are 14 pilot areas, according to the Streets Department, which were chosen based on a years-long city survey of neighborhoods with the highest litter concentration.
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But only six locations will start to see ticketing begin in May. Fines of $31 will be levied by the Philadelphia Parking Authority in the six areas in bold type below, officials said, but no vehicles will be towed for ignoring the rules.
For the remaining eight divisions, streets officials said they will install signage and provide a 30-day grace period before enforcement begins at a yet-unknown date.
North Central: Broad Street to 22nd Street from Glenwood Avenue to Diamond Street
Frankford: Bridge Street to Adams Avenue from Griscom Street to Torresdale Avenue
Germantown: Berkley Street to Chelten Avenue from Pulaski Avenue to Wakefield Street
Kensington: Second Street to Kensington Avenue from Tioga Street to Lehigh Avenue
Logan: Godfrey Street to Roosevelt Boulevard from Broad Street to Fifth Street
Nicetown: Broad Street to Clarissa Street from Hunting Park Avenue to Windrim Street
Paschall: 58th Street to 70th Street from Greenway Avenue to Dicks Street
Point Breeze: Christian Street to McKean Street from Broad Street to 24th Street
Port Richmond: Kensington Avenue to Aramingo Avenue from Tioga Street to Lehigh Avenue
South Philly: McKean Street to Oregon Avenue from Fourth Street to Eighth Street
Southwest: Woodland Avenue to Kingsessing Avenue from 49th Street to Cemetery Avenue
Strawberry Mansion: Diamond Street to Lehigh Avenue from Sedgley Street to 33rd Street
West Fairhill: Fifth Street to 13th Street from Glenwood Avenue to Susquehanna Avenue
West Philly: Parkside Avenue to Spring Garden Street from 52nd Street to 40th Street
Again, sweeping hours are 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. On the sweeping day for any given block, however, officials are using a staggered schedule, allowing residents to park on one side of the block and then move to the other side, alternating every two hours.
After pausing the program in 2020, the Kenney administration last year devoted $62 million from its five-year spending plan to street sweeping. Starting last April, the Streets Department began “intermittently” sweeping commercial corridors and some of the pilot zones where the program began in 2019, and relaunched the pilot in more neighborhoods in August.
The program uses a mix of mechanical street-sweeping vehicles, trash compactors, and city workers equipped with brooms and controversial backpack blowers to clean hard-to-reach debris. (“Backpack blowers will be used as part of the launch but not on all streets” going forward, spokesperson Keisha McCarty-Skelton said in a statement.)
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For the second phase launching next week, the biggest hurdle is education, followed by enforcement.
While other cities have had street-sweeping programs for decades, Philadelphia has been uniquely resistant to the idea since it scuttled its last iteration of the program in the early 2000s, largely driven by residents’ gripes over parking.
Throughout the pilot program, enforcement has been limited to warnings.
During the limited pilot from August to November last year, officials issued more than 1,500 warnings to motorists where parking restrictions had been posted.
Ticket issuance in May will mark a new frontier. Officials this week said SWEEP officers will patrol neighborhoods to educate residents and continue issuing warnings to vehicles.
With towing off the table, motorists’ refusal to move their cars could continue to stymie the rollout.
However, during a series of feedback sessions this month, officials said residents seemed excited. Aside from the usual concerns over parking and relocating vehicles, some asked officials to expand the program’s boundaries — particularly to include the 25th Street viaduct corridor in Point Breeze, a known hot spot for illegal dumping.
“That area will now be included as part of regular cleaning in the program as a result,” said McCarty-Skelton.
The Streets Department said it plans to launch a web-based map called SweepPHL that will let residents track and monitor the path of the mechanical brooms through their neighborhoods, so they can plan to park around those times.
It will also take time to measure the impact.
Last fall, McCarty-Skelton said, sanitation supervisors began assessing the areas in the days after street sweeping to measure the impact, and they appeared less than optimistic.
In some areas, they reported a marked difference in cleanliness week over week, while other areas stayed just as dirty.
“During return visits the next day or later in the week,” McCarty-Skelton said, “some of the supervisors’ feedback is there does not appear to be a significant difference after cleaning, as more litter and debris has returned to the streets.”