Panel Paper: Smart Street Sweeping in the City of Pittsburgh, PA

Saturday, April 8, 2017 : 8:50 AM
Founders Hall Room 478 (George Mason University Schar School of Policy)

*Names in bold indicate Presenter

Justin Cole, Mark Egge, Ridhima Sodhi and Wei Zhang, Carnegie Mellon University
Street sweeping is an important municipal function because it improves the cleanliness and appearance of the street, prevents catch basin clogging, and reduces nutrient pollutants from entering nearby waterways. For example, the project team found that the city of Pittsburgh would have to build over 4,000 acres of bioretention facilities at a cost of approximately $7.4 million a year (O&M and construction costs spread over a 25 year lifespan) in order to achieve the same reduction in nutrient pollution that street sweeping provides, a practice that requires no change of land use and costs only $850,000 a year.   

However, street sweeping requires residents to move their cars for a 5.5 hour time period twice a month (once on each side of the street) so that the sweeper can access the curb, where 80% of the debris resides. Last year, over 40,000 parking tickets were issued to residents in the city of Pittsburgh who did not move their cars during this time period, resulting in negative interactions between city residents and government and, due to a municipal code, delayed sweeping operations. We believe a large majority of violators are residents who simply forget because of the infrequent nature of current sweeping and the fact that there was no place residents could go to find this information other than the metal signs that adorn Pittsburgh streets. Our project goal was to decrease parking violations by 25% and make the issuing of the remaining tickets less of an impediment on sweeping operations. The City of Pittsburgh can achieve this by leveraging a database that the project team created which digitized all of the street sweeping parking restrictions to create an SMS text notification system for residents, resulting in a 10-15% annual reduction in parking violations. We also recommend increasing the deterrent (fine) for street sweeping from $30 to $45, resulting in an additional 10-15% annual reduction in parking violations. Finally, by decoupling the sweeping operations from parking enforcement by making a change to operations, the City can save an additional 1,000 labor hours saved per year. 

These recommendations are currently being evaluated and implemented through a partnership with Carnegie Mellon University and the City of Pittsburgh’s Department of Public Works. The first project will be to implement the SMS text notification system for Pittsburgh residents, gain market adoption, and quantify the impact on the number of parking tickets issued. The second project will be a pilot demonstration of the proposed change in operations within one division followed by a study in order to quantify the labor hours saved.