by Wendlyn Alter
"The performance level of our street cleaning operations
is topped by no major city in the United States.
So says Dave Reed, Assistant Director of the Bureau of Street Maintenance for the city of Los Angeles, and he's got the figures to back it up. "I'm talking about the fact that we are sweeping our 25% of the residential portion of the city that is posted for weekly street cleaning at a 99.4% completion rate. We are sweeping our nonposted portions of the city -- daytime residential -- at about 3.2 weeks, when we're actually budgeted for once a month. The city is also sweeping its major and secondary highway system [this includes business districts, commercial areas and some industrial areas], which are swept at night, on a 90% average. All I can tell you is, for the investment the city has in their street sweeping program they're getting a terrific bounce for their buck."
This is quite an accomplishment, Reed points out, in a municipality which in terms of street miles is the largest in North America and perhaps the world.
After learning that Los Angeles had switched to private sweeping contractors to handle its off-street parking, we contacted Reed to ask whether the city was considering private contractors for street sweeping functions as well.
"Absolutely not," he replied unequivocally. The principal reason for remaining a force account [sweeping performed by city forces] rather than utilizing contractors, Reed emphasized, is sheer size. "I don't know any city in the major group -- Chicago, San Francisco, New York -- that contracts out street sweeping."
Reasons? Reed cited the possibility of labor problems, and lack of control over future contract costs after their machinery have been eliminated and cannot easily be replaced. Debris disposal, including transportation costs, tipping fees and landfill decisions, would also be more difficult to coordinate, he believes. But, Reed acknowledged, many of the concerns of a huge metropolis will not be a problem for smaller municipalities. In fact, many of the 88 cities in Los Angeles county contract out their street sweeping. "If I was a city manager or a public works director in a smaller community -- say 25,000-250,000 or so people -- and I had to make a decision about how to clean my streets, I would look very carefully at force account vs. contract. This is especially true for municipalities that now contract with the county for cleaning services. I'd certainly ask for some estimates and bids from the private contracting sector."
Los Angeles tackles its street sweeping challenge with a force of Athey-Mobils. "We don't have the luxury of specialized fleets," Reed laments. "If we had a mixed fleet of, say, regenerative air sweepers as opposed to mechanical broom sweepers, we'd have the wrong machine in the wrong place at the wrong time. So we basically have a machine that is uniform and can do any job that you give it. Our fleet of 170 machines has to take care of the whole city of Los Angeles."
However, Reed foresees this changing as EPA regulations become more stringent regarding fine particulates. "Before long, either by contract or by purchase, cities will begin using at least some air sweepers just to get fines up and keep them from going into the storm drains.
"I know all municipalities are different," Reed summarized, "but in the city of Los Angeles, we have been performing at the highest levels in history for the last four years. As long as we keep our equipment maintained, as long as we can do that job -- you know, the bottom line of the sweeping business is having the right equipment and doing the right job."
Interview was with Dave Reed of L.A. Bureau of Street Maintenance: 213-485-5681
This article is reprinted from American Sweeper magazine, v1 n1.