Six neighborhoods in Philly set for street cleaning pilot

Department of Streets, Office of the Mayor.

The streets of six neighborhoods in Philadelphia are getting a mechanized cleaning crew, Mayor Jim Kenney announced on Tuesday

The Mechanical Street Cleaning Pilot Program is a groundbreaking investment in streets including a $2.3 million annual investment in street cleaning to reduce litter on the City’s streets and sidewalks that is part of the city’s Fiscal Year 2020 Budget, as well as a key component in the Five-Year Plan to improve quality of life for Philly residents. The program will run kick off mid-April and will run until December 1. 

In 2008, the city discontinued its residential mechanical street sweeping program due to a lack of funding. While the city has continued to clean routes with heavy traffic in and around business corridors, certain residential blocks have struggled with litter and illegal dumping. 

“Watching our city get dumped on day after day seriously burns me up,” Kenney said in a statement posted on “It is the reason why I have fought to bring back a residential mechanical sweeping program. Being able to restore this program in the neighborhoods that need it most is something I am very proud of, and I thank the Streets Department for their work on putting this pilot together.” 

The city will use a fleet of mechanical-broom street sweepers as well as man-powered backpack and hand-held blowers. Residents are encouraged, but not required, to move their vehicles. They will not face tickets or penalties if they don’t move their cars on street cleaning days. 

The areas selected for the pilot program have litter ratings of 2.0 or higher on the Litter Index

According to the official page, the Litter Index is conducted by trained staff in the city departments responsible for surveying and documenting litter on city streets, sidewalks, vacant lots, and other public property. It combines a cloud-based survey taken on tablets using GPS coordinates to ensure accuracy, plus boots on the ground observations from field surveyors who give a 1-4 litter rating based on metrics from Keep America Beautiful. A rating of 1 means little to no litter, 2 being litter in the amount that can be picked up by one person, 3 being litter in the amount that would need a team and 4 means litter that would require a large cleanup effort and/or heavy machinery to remove debris. 

“Using the Litter Index we’ve spent the last two years collecting data to identify the areas of the city where litter and trash debris are most prevalent,” Managing Director Brian Abernathy said in a statement. “More importantly, we identified the areas of the city where mechanical cleaning will be most effective.” 

The following neighborhoods were identified for the program expansion: West Philadelphia (Parkside Ave. to Lancaster Ave., from 52nd St. to Girard Ave.) Southwest (Woodland Ave. to Kingsessing Ave., from 49th St. to Cemetary Ave.) Kensington (2nd St to Frankford Ave., from Tioga St. to Lehigh Ave.) Strawberry Mansion (Diamond St to Lehigh Ave., from 29th St. to 33rd St.) Logan (Godfrey Ave. to Roosevelt Blvd., from Broad St. to 5th St.) South Philly (McKean St. to Oregon Ave., from 4th St. to 8th St.). 

“I am proud of the targeted work we are doing to reduce illegal dumping, abandoned cars, and auto chop shop in my district and I think this street sweeping pilot is a step in the right direction for our city, and for Southwest Philadelphia, to improve quality of life and get us closer to our Zero Waste and Litter goals here,” Second District Councilman Kenyatta Johnson said in a statement. “I am hopeful about expanding the program moving forward.” 

The Streets Department will evaluate the pilot at the end of 2019 to explore expansion to other areas.

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