Pittsburgh street cleaning sign

Pittsburgh street cleaning sign (thanks daveynin)

You know the drill. Tuesday is your only day off, and consequently it’s also your only chance to sleep in after working two jobs all week. Somewhere far away in dreamland, you suddenly wake up to a circular scraping sound whirling around outside. You jump out of bed, eyes still blurry and glued shut, throw on your clothes from yesterday and urgently run out the door without brushing your teeth or even taking your morning leak. But why? To move your car to the other side of the street.

Days like this one are special. It’s a holiday for the city. Celebrated between April 1st and November 30th. Usually on the first and third Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday, or Friday of each month and between the hours of 8:30am to 2pm. Just like many of us were tricked and scammed on holidays as kids, now we’re hard working grown-ups being told to believe in something just as unreal as the Easter Bunny, leprechauns, tooth fairies, and even Santa Claus. But the figure in this holiday doesn’t creep around when you’re sleeping to leave goodies and treats. No, this character is cold, ugly, and loud. It roams the streets out in the open, and wakes you up twice a month. It’s… The Street Sweeper.

The city makes bank on street cleaning days. Some would say in an unfair way, especially considering that it doesn’t appear to actually work. The streets are still covered in gravel and litter after the street sweeper drives past. In fact, it usually makes the situation much worse. We’ve all seen that trail of crap left behind after the guy drives down the block. And it probably enraged you for a moment or two.

But forget about the ineffectiveness of street sweepers for now. The most enraging thing is that it doesn’t matter if you have a valid parking permit in your window, or if you popped enough quarters in your meter because you can still get a parking ticket. Meter maids are supposed to follow the street sweeper and issue tickets to the cars blocking the road at the time of cleaning… but that’s not how it works. It seems like the city fines people between the hours of 8:30am-2pm even if the sweeping truck is no where in sight!

Last year they began working on developing a plan to make it even easier to get money from people by attaching cameras to street sweepers that would capture images of license plates and automagically send out tickets – take this as a fair warning that you could potentially get caught cheating on your significant other if you park your car in the wrong place on the wrong day. But even putting privacy issues aside, the cameras would cost about $40k each, plus over $20k/month to maintain. Which obviously means ticket prices would have to increase even more than they already have.

Dear City of Pittsburgh and surrounding small municipalities, please stop wasting our money on new street cleaning equipment that doesn’t actually clean the streets. Just post signs saying no parking during specific day/time and issue everyone tickets if they’re too exhausted to move their cars.

This is a flat out pay day for cities and towns at the expense of people who just want to sleep in.

City of Pittsburgh Public Works Street Sweeper

City of Pittsburgh Public Works Street Sweeper (thanks Matt Niemi)