Posts about DPW
Downtown DC Business Improvement District employees use a hand-held geographic information system (GIS) to track public space problems like broken fire hydrants. Could this technology also help DC government employees, like trash collectors?
ESRI, the company that makes the most commonly-used GIS software in the United States, has a quarterly newsletter called ArcNews. The spring issue has a story about a custom program that BID employees use to report issues with the trash cans, park benches, bus shelters, and other public assets in the BID.
The program sounds like a more sophisticated version of the SeeClickFix application that is re-skinned and rebranded as the DC311 app. The 311 app is buggy and could use work to make it more useful, but it's limited in scope and meant for the public to simply report issues, not address the process from start to finish. The application for the BID employees appears to do just that.
I've often watched DC Department of Public Works (DPW) employees in the morning picking up trash in the alley. There are two guys riding on the back of the truck and one driver. Once in the alley, the two employees who jump off the back of the truck methodically empty the supercans into the truck, while the driver slowly trundles the truck down the alley.
What if the driver had a dash-mounted tablet with a program similar to the one the BID workers have? Perhaps he could quickly note things like illegally dumped furniture, potholes, or broken supercan lids.
With a program like the one the BID has, these DPW employees could be an early-warning system for the department, hitting a button to record the location of any of these issues that DPW would have to deal with. It seems like this could be an efficient way to asses problems that the department would need to deal with anyway. The increased workload could be connected to a bonus system of sorts. Drivers that find the most legitimate problems that need to be addressed could receive a commensurate pay increase.
In addition, perhaps some of the features in this program could filter down to the DC311 app in a future update.
Tommy Wells would like to keep the Circulator fare at $1, add 40 more Capital Bikeshare stations, hire needed people at DDOT including a parking czar, set up performance parking on H Street, fund green alleys, and more. Increased residential parking fees, including for households with extra vehicles, and some higher fines will pay for these priorities.
These are some of the recommendations in the draft budget report from the Committee on Public Works and Transportation, which Wells chairs. The committee oversees DDOT, the Department of Public Works, the DMV, WMATA, and a few others, and the report covers budget changes to those programs.
The recommendations include:
Expand CaBi faster. $2 million in capital funding would fund 40 more Capital Bikeshare stations in the core and in more peripheral neighborhoods.
This would add to the 25 already planned and other stations that private developers or federal agencies will pay for. In total, DDOT says this will allow the system to double from its original size within 2 years of the September 2010 launch.
Fund green alleys. Many alleys have crumbling surfaces and greatly need repair, but there hasn't been much money for this in recent years. $1 million would fund a new Green Alleys program, picking some alleys to rebuild with permeable paving, energy-efficient LED lighting, trees, and more.
Keep Circulator fare. Wells is proposing to keep the Circulator fare at $1, rolling back Mayor Gray's proposal to make it $2 cash and $1.50 with SmarTrip. Downtown businesses argued that it would cut ridership substantially, perhaps even reversing all or most of the expected revenue gain. The Circulator is also going east of the river, and some felt it wasn't right for it to finally go there and double in price at the same time.
The funding for this comes partly through use of one-time funds at WMATA, so the Council will have to look at the Circulator fare again next year. Wells wants that to happen once the Council has reviewed and approved DDOT's plans for longer-term Circulator expansion.
Semi-replace 7th Street Circulator. The north-south Circulator is still going away. To partly make up for it, WMATA is creating a 74 bus to travel between I Street NW and the Southwest Waterfront along a route similar to that part of the Circulator's, and extending the V8 bus, which connects Minnesota Avenue to Southwest, along 7th Street to downtown as well.
Hire ward planners, development reviewers, and parking czar. Wells also wants to restore six positions at DDOT which have been vacant for some time. Gray's budget cut most vacant positions entirely. The six positions include three ward planners, for wards 2, 3, and 5. The ward planners made sure that all DDOT projects in a ward fit together well, and provided useful points of contact for the communities involved.
DDOT also needs to staff up its development review department, which looks at planned developments and zoning filings and encourage developers to effectively accommodate pedestrians and bicycles, consider good stormwater management, and include Transportation Demand Management programs. Wells would add 2 positions for this.
The final and most exciting staff position is a parking program manager, or "parking czar." DDOT's parking program has been a tremendous disappointment for years. The performance parking pilot zones didn't see the kind of experimentation that the legislation asked for. Some neighborhoods have wanted performance parking but haven't been able to get it.
DDOT has been mailing out free visitor parking passes in several wards, which leaves large opportunities for abuse. They have promised for years to set up a better system, but haven't. If they can get a good parking program manager, DDOT can finally be the national leader in parking policies they once seemed to be, but got eclipsed by San Francisco and other cities.
Start performance parking on H Street. Wells would create a third performance parking zone, around H Street NE (G to I Streets from 3rd to 15th). Residential streets in the area would become resident-only for one side of the street, as in the other zones, and meters set to achieve 10-20% available spaces.
Protect neighborhood RPP funds. The performance parking pilot zones dedicate most of the revenue raised to local neighborhood improvements, giving residents a stake in the success of performance parking. Gray's budget took this money away to use as general revenue; Wells wants to restore it.
Maintain traffic enforcement officers. The proposal would restore 5 traffic enforcement officers cut in Gray's budget. There are plenty of places where enforcement can make pedestrians, bicyclists, and drivers all safer by stopping dangerous behavior. Also, DDOT wants to do more to stop parking in loading zones, bus stops, and handicap placard abuse.
Keep "sweepercam" tickets. Gray's budget eliminated the "sweepercam" system, where street sweeping trucks automatically photograph vehicles illegally blocking sweeping and DPW can send them tickets. Without this, DPW would have to have people manually enforce the sweeping.
Also, as the report points out, the cameras allow DPW not to ticket anyone parked in a sweeping zone after the actual sweeping has finished, whereas if officers did it manually, they wouldn't know and would still ticket those cars. The committee report restores $300,000 for this program.
Create a DDOT enterprise fund. When DDOT lost its "unified fund," it lost some ability to dynamically fund innovations without going through the Council first. Budget staff at that time talked about creating a special fund with some money that can go to such programs. Wells' proposal moves Capital Bikeshare advertising revenue into this fund, along with truck weight fees, multispace meter advertising, car sharing fees, loading zone permit fees, and a few others.
And more. Wells' proposal also funds a "bait bike" where officers place a bike which looks ripe to steal, and watch to catch people who try to steal it. $50,000 will also go to the Committee on Libraries, Parks and Recreation for neighborhood parks. Gray's budget cut the $10,000 annual funding each for the Bicycle Advisory Council and the Pedestrian Advisory Council; Wells is restoring both.
How will Wells and his committee pay for all this?
Errors in the budget. Some money comes from finding mistakes in the budget. For example, Gray's budget office moved a lot of DDOT positions from the capital budget over to the operating budget. That's mainly an accounting issue; the jobs are still there, but some categories of spending went from large amounts to zero and other categories went from zero to big. Upon scrutinizing all of this, Council staff realized that some of the jobs had been moved over twice, leading to double-funding in the budget.
Higher and graduated RPP fees. A big part of the increase comes from a longtime GGW recommendation: increasing RPP fees, especially for households with multiple cars. DC's fees for resident parking permits are remarkably low, at $15/year. Renting any other chunk of space anywhere in the city costs far more. San Francisco charges $98/year, for example.
Under Wells' proposal, RPP fees will increase to $35/year, except for seniors 65 and older who will only pay $25/year. Once the DMV finishes a computer upgrade to support it, additional permits for each household will cost $50/year for the second and $100/year for additional permits beyond that.
Fines for repeat parking offenders. Fines for parking in residential areas beyond the 2 hours allowed, or for parking in resident-only areas, would increase for repeat offenders. The fine now is $30, except $60 around the ballpark during games only. The $30 fines would remain $30 for the 1st and 2nd tickets someone receives in a single calendar year, but become $60 beyond that.
Reciprocity fees. Congressional, military, Presidental appointees, and some others are allowed to have reciprocity permits, getting the benefits of registering cars in DC including RPP permits but without actually becoming DC residents. They pay $10 annually for this, while students have to pay $338 and temporary residents $250. Wells proposes increasing the reciprocity fee to $50.
What's not included
WMATA, fully. Gray's budget slightly increased DC's contributions to WMATA, but DC was still $10.422 million short of the level needed to avoid service cuts. Wells found another $6.265 million, and is asking the Council to consider the other $4.157 million as a council-wide priority in the next phase of the budget process.
Each committee first considers its own budget, and moves around money within that area, raising related revenues if desired to restore programs. Then, the whole Council looks at further cuts or restorations broadly; the remaining WMATA gap will be one of them.
Street sweeping inspectors. Gray's budget cuts the numbers of officers enforcing street sweeping rules. Wells said in this morning's markup that he wanted to increase the numbers, but unlike with the DDOT traffic officers, the CFO wouldn't certify revenue from these officers, so the Council would have to come up with more revenue to restore them.
The committee report also touches on some other topics which aren't line items in the budget, but which have budgetary implications. It asks DDOT to organize a task force to look at long-term transportation funding as gas taxes decline; to try to implement Circulator expansions even sooner than proposed; to add more efficient streetlights; and more. DDOT has also promised to conduct a transportation study on M Street SE/SW.
For DPW, the committee asks them to aggressively push fleet sharing, especially to replace older vehicles; to come up with a strategy to increase recycling; and to publish more information on costs that Wells has been asking for.
The committee had its markup session scheduled for 10 am, but as of this writing didn't have enough Councilmembers present to make up a quorum. Assuming it passes the markup, this will get agglomerated with the budget reports from the other committees.
The full Council will then take up the WMATA funding issue and other larger priorities from other areas. Issues outside of transportation, like the proposed income tax increase for people making over $200,000 and cuts to human services, will be debated at the full Council level.
DC can kill two political birds with one stone: Save money, and respond to public frustration about official vehicles, by aggressively replacing most government vehicles with fleet sharing.
At the Council hearing on SUVgate on March 7, DPW Director Bill Howland said that if he had a "magic wand," he would take away almost all dedicated agency vehicles and replace them with fleet share.
How does DPW's fleet share work? Basically, it's Zipcar for DC employees. Actually, that's exactly what it is, since it's run by Zipcar. DC pays $115-125 per vehicle, per month, and Zipcar manages each vehicle's use. Government employees have a special reservation system, and special cards to unlock the vehicles.
In 2008 and 2009, DC replaced 360 individual vehicles with just 58 shared vehicles. DC saved about $1 million a year by doing this.
Let's give Howland his magic wand. Ask DPW to review its inventory of official vehicles and identify each one that has to remain dedicated to one person or agency. DPW should release a report to the Council and the public about each one, with an explanation of why it needs to be a dedicated vehicle.
Then, for all the others, switch them out for fleet share. Even if just 2 dedicated vehicles turn into 1 fleet share vehicle, it saves money. Plus, since Zipcar has a certain amount of fixed cost to run its systems, it ought to be able to give DC a bit better of a rate per car for the next few hundred fleet share vehicles.
Some DC government agencies, where one facility is far from others, might not lend themselves to fleet share. But DC has been consolidating many agencies into a number of buildings around the District, most of which are also right by Metro stations.
By reducing the numbers of vehicles the District owns, it would also cut down on parking needs. At buildings where part of the garage is commercial, like at the Reeves Center, each space not being used by DC means another space that can be rented out to others daily or monthly, saving even more money.
Plus, why not let the general public rent out fleet share vehicles on weekends? DC has a bunch of fleet share vehicles in the garage at the Reeves Center, for instance, of which very few are probably used on weekends. Meanwhile, there's plenty of weekend demand at 14th and U, perhaps more than on weekdays.
The Reeves Center garage is already open to the public as well. Let most but not all DC fleet share vehicles turn into regular Zipcars just for the weekend. DC could run this as a pilot at the Reeves Center, the most obvious spot, to figure out how well this works and whether it's worth expanding to other facilities.
This year is the ideal time to do this. There's tremendous voter outrage over the existing official vehicles. Howland, Mayor Gray, and the DC Council would find plenty of public support for any effort to reduce the size of the District's fleet and save money.
As DC prepares for some snow tonight, DDOT and DPW are taking clear steps to remind property owners that they are legally required to shovel sidewalks.
From the press release:
There may also be enough snow to shovel and residents and businesses are reminded they should be prepared to clear the walkways adjacent to their properties, as required by District law. To encourage compliance, DDOT and DPW are launching a public awareness campaign called "Is your sidewalk shoveled?" The campaign's simple message is driven home on a poster by the image of a mother pushing a baby stroller in the street adjacent to a snow covered sidewalk.This is an important step. At last night's meeting of the Pedestrian Advisory Council, DDOT's George Branyan noted that during last year's storms, many business owners expressed surprise when he told them the law requires shoveling sidewalks.
"It is our responsibility to make sure the roadways are treated, plowed and passable," said DDOT's Interim Director Terry Bellamy, "But many people moving around the city are on foot, and we need every property owner to pitch in to ensure the sidewalks are as safe and clear as the streets."
The two agencies will promote the campaign on their web and social media sites and make the information and materials available to local residents, businesses, BIDs, bloggers and media outlets to help spread the message. DDOT also plans to post the campaign poster on bus shelters in the city later this winter.
Awareness is one of several steps necessary to ensure people can navigate sidewalks on foot. DC also needs fines for violators, and resources to help people unable to shovel, like businesses willing to do it for a fee and volunteer help for poorer and elderly residents or nonprofits. DDOT has started encouraging people to form neighborhood shoveling teams like we did last year; organizing these more formally would be a great step for ANCs to take.
Does it seem fair that some households produce up to a dozen trash bags per week while their neighbors, who pay the same taxes, produce few if any trash bags but plenty of recycling and sometimes compost?
That's what happens in all Washington-area municipalities, but more than 7,000 municipalities nationwide covering 25% of the population have rejected this "cash-for-trash" subsidy in favor of "pay-as-you-throw" (PAYT).
In DC the situation is even more unfair. Because private haulers collect waste from buildings with more than 3 residential units, while the city collects waste from all other residential dwellings, apartment and condo residents subsidize waste collection for everyone else. Gas, water and electricity are paid by usage. Trash collection costs should be as well.
How does PAYT work? The city bills you monthly for trash collection based on the size and number of trash cans you request. In addition, you can buy city-approved trash bags, or stickers that you can affix to your own trash bags, at local stores and use them if your can is full. Curbside collectors only pick up trash from city cans and bags, or bags with city stickers on them. And taxes can go down now that collection and disposal pay for themselves.
PAYT has been demonstrated across the country. Fort Worth charges monthly rates of $12.75 for a 32-gallon can, $17.75 for a 64-gallon can, $22.75 for a 96-gallon can, and $3 per city-approved bag to use when your can is full. San Jose, CA also does this, and has saved $4 million while more than doubling its recyclables. So does Seattle. This is what Frederick County plans to try in an upcoming PAYT pilot. In fact, 3 out of 10 large cities use PAYT. Why doesn't DC?
A third-party assessment of DC's tax structure commissioned by the CFO recommended PAYT, but former District Department of the Environment Director George Hawkins said in a GGW livechat that "We have looked at this issue, but are not currently thinking of moving to a pay-as-you-throw program until we have improved our core recycling program." So we don't want to increase recycling? The EPA says that "PAYT is the single most effective single action that can increase recycling and diversion" and PAYT programs have existed since the 70s (Spokane was the first in 1944). What are we waiting for exactly?illegal dumping is more fear than reality, and any increases last for 3 months or less. Furthermore, PAYT gives the poor control over their spending on trash collection, instead of taxing them to subsidize trash collection for large houses. That's why PAYT is often called SAYT (Save-as-you-Throw).
The current budget crises are a great opportunity for DPW to adopt PAYT. If DPW is simply lacking the money or the will to implement a monthly billing system, then it should retain the current can collection system, but charge for city-approved bags or stickers that are sold at local stores to be used when your can is full. Non-approved bags or bags without stickers would either be ignored or collected with a fine imposed on the offender.
Simply by charging for bags or stickers to be used for overflow trash, we would expect to see an increase in recycling and a reduction in waste, as well as greater use of cans resulting in less blight and fewer rodents. If it was successful, the proceeds could pay for the billing system to place monthly fees on cans of different size. Trash collection would then be self-sustaining such that apartment and condo residents no longer subsidize everyone else's trash collection, as everyone's taxes would be reduced accordingly.
What do you think? DDOE has a new Director, Christophe Tulou. Contact him and DPW Director Howland, or the DPW and Environment directors in your municipality, to let them know how you feel about PAYT.
The region has now broken the all-time snow record, but that hasn't stopped criticism of nearly every government response, from plowing to transportation to trash collection. We need to be patient with authorities. What separates some agencies from others, however, is the degree of communication, and there WMATA earns a few slaps on the wrist.
Chris Matthews criticized DC's snow handling, with support from Councilmember Harry Thomas, Jr. (Ward 5) who chastised the Mayor for not having "coordinated" with Councilmembers. Matthews said, "We had the weather of Buffalo with the snowplowing capability of Miami."
That's unfair. If we had the snowplowing capability of Miami, everything would have been closed all last week after the light snow of the previous weekend. As Michael Dresser noted, we don't have Buffalo's snow removal equipment, and machines like high-capacity snowblowers are "fiendishly expensive."
Mike DeBonis isn't amused by Councilmembers' "armchair Mayoring". Thomas, Marion Barry, and Kwame Brown all sent out press releases about how they would have done things differently, such as whether and how quickly to ask for federal aid. DeBonis praises one Councilmember's reaction: Tommy Wells asked constituents to send in reports of streets needing plowing, so his office could coordinate with the Mayor's to ensure that nobody gets missed.
The whining wasn't limited to national media figures who never otherwise pay attention to local issues or Councilmembers with a political axe to grind. DPW did a proactive job emailing every neighborhood listserv about trash collection, but many weren't satisfied. Residents with alley collections were asked to put trash out at the curb instead of behind the house; on the Brightwood list, resident Keith replied,
This is the single most ridiculous email I have read yet. If your trucks can't get down the alley's to collect the trash, how do you expect people to get out there and get their trash or super cans to the front? Over 3 1/2 feet of solid snow/ice piled up to the front door from the plows! Maybe you should take a drive down 14th street and come to see for yourself what a pathetic job has been done on our streets. ... Now you want US to put our cans in front for an "effort" get a life buddy. My trash can just pile up until which time your people can get out of the truck and do their job.But Beth retorted:
All you people who are whining about having to take a trash bag out to the front of your house need to get over yourselves. This is a series of storms of historic proportionsFortunately, most residents of Brightwood agreed with Beth. Most residents are coping with the snow and being patient.
— yes, our normal systems are not adequate to ensure smooth operations and everyone's convenience. An awful lot of people have been working really hard to alleviate the storm's affects. Do you really want DC to spend the money to be ready every year for storms that come to this region once a century?
Metro, too, deserves our patience. Their infrastructure is not set up to operate in snow of this volume. Many other cities have more heating systems to handle snow, but those areas expect this kind of weather and spend money to plan for it. The problem with unpredictable weather, and the danger of even more unpredictable storms in the future due to climate change, is that we're not expecting it. If we knew this would happen next year, maybe the federal government could provide some of the $100 million it loses each day it's closed to bolster our transit systems' snowproofing.
Metro had to single-track across most of the system because they stored trains underground on other tracks. That caused substantial delays; a friend who commutes from Woodley Park downtown reports that on Tuesday, he had to wait about an hour and a half for a train that wasn't already jam-packed full.
Some of you have criticized the underground storage. Metro says that "Metro is storing almost half of its rail fleet underground to help protect the rail cars from the damage caused by ice and snow." I'm not a rail operations expert, but would just point out the New York City does the same thing; they just have express tracks, allowing them to keep running two-way service while storing cars.
Where Metro differed from other agencies was in its level of communication. DDOT put out several press releases each day, and Mayor Fenty was constantly on television and quoted in the press. John Catoe wasn't nearly so visible. It's true that Fenty can go overboard with his media visibility at times, but during this storm, that was reassuring.
It seems Metro could have done more to inform riders that trains were not running frequently, and explain why. At this point, they're still keeping us informed about the current service, but many people have been asking on neighborhood listservs, when does Metro currently expect to have more service running?
The people who really needed better communication were the passengers on the Blue Line train that hit a wire. Bright sparks "started spewing across the ... window," one witness told the Post, and the car began filling with smoke.
Monica Thompson, 43, said that after the train stopped passengers tried contacting the operator on the intercom system but failed to gain any insight into their fate.The train operator was almost surely spending his time trying to figure out what happened, what to do, and whether people were safe, which are the most important. When there's a major car or truck fire on the highway, the police don't manage to notify everyone, either. However, passengers were also understandably panicked and "stand by" is just not sufficient. The train operator could have at least shared something, like "the train is not on fire," or whatever he did know.
"We're underground and you're not telling us anything to ease our mind. The first thing people thought was, 'Oh my God, we're going to die,' " she said. "People could have gotten trampled."
Tatum and others said that for the first half-hour, the only word from the train operator was, "Stand by, customers, stand by," and, "We will move momentarily."
"After almost 30 minutes, smoke, sparks, hysteria, we find out what happened
— we hit a wire. WHAT??" Tatum wrote.
It would be helpful to get a better account in the coming weeks about what Metro's train operators usually know in a situation like this, and whether they have the time or the information to share more with passengers. Communication shouldn't be the lowest priority.
Dave Stroup of why.i.hate.dc has tracked down the gory details of the ghost bike removal.
In a nutshell, the request originated with Ed Grandis, who runs a Dupont Circle based group called DC MAP with significant overlap with Historic Dupont Circle Main Streets. The next week, the Mayor's Ward 2 specialist Andrew Huff asked DPW to cut the bike down within 24 hours, calling it a "mayoral request." DDOT's Jim Sebastian tried to give WABA a chance to remove the bike, getting Huff to agree to wait until Monday; however, DPW didn't get Huff's note in time and cut it anyway.
Following the outcry, Mayoral, DPW, and DDOT officials debated what to do. Some of the Mayor's people were willing to set up a permanent memorial, but DPW opposed the idea, as did other mayoral staff, and they collectively decided to refuse to give a better answer to inquiries.
From our previous discussions on this topic, I know commenters' opinions are divided on a permanent memorial, and I'm not sure if I'd endorse it either. The bigger question, as Stroup notes, is why a request from one local organization turned into an urgent priority on the part of the Mayor. Had the Mayor's office simply contacted Sebastian without such a short deadline, he would have talked to WABA, they would probably have taken the bike down, and that would have been it.
Stroup had to pay $65 in copying fees to get all of this. This is a good example of why it's important for bloggers to be considered news media and given the exemption to FOIA fees that journalists are entitled to. In this case, Stroup is digging up important information about the workings of the government that are interesting to the public, and publishing it. That's called journalism.
Sometimes, the most heroic of politicians get fooled by proposals that sound like they'll save the world but turn out to be terrible policy. The political organizers-in-training running mock superhero campaigns for DC Mayor fell into this trap, as many of them hastily jumped on a proposal from Adam Green Goblin to eliminate street cleaning tickets in DC.
The noble Adam Green was transformed by a chemical serum, adrenaline, when DPW "courtesy towed" his car around the corner to make room for snow removal. The new space had a different street cleaning day than the place he'd parked, leading Adam to get a street cleaning ticket. DPW also couldn't tell Adam where they'd put the car.
From that day forward, Adam Green Goblin began roaming the city trying to stamp out street sweeping tickets. He created a Facebook group arguing that the tickets are just a revenue generator for DC. He also added that Georgetown has no street cleaning (nor does Ward 3), making the tickets an unfair burden on residents of other neighborhoods.
It is indeed unfair for some neighborhoods to have sweeping and not others, but the solution isn't to stop cleaning the streets. Residents of the areas with street sweeping originally petitioned DC to start it, due to high volumes of trash and chemicals on their streets. Residents would certainly not like the way their neighborhoods looked if DC stopped cleaning. And when we don't take debris off the streets, it washes into storm drains and rivers, or blows into trees and parks. On my street, after DPW does not clean the streets for the winter, the gutters are full of tree material and some trash, and many streets nearer businesses accumulate a lot more trash.
The new street sweeper cameras, which have enraged some drivers, are also making a difference to DC's trash and pollution. According to testimony from DPW head William Howland at a January 2008 hearing, cars parked illegally during sweeping hours significantly impede DPW's ability to get trash off the streets. Each car forces the sweeper to go around, making it miss three parking spaces worth of gutter. Cleaning vehicles collect 10 pounds of oil and grease per mile swept, and 3 pounds each of nitrogen and phosphorus.Green Lantern, who created a petition for neighborhoods to request an end to street cleaning. This came despite his strong advocacy for green jobs and green roofs. Batwoman also endorsed the campaign, as did Batgirl, despite her major policy plank of "cleaning up our streets," which she must mean only in the crimefighting way. The Atom came out against street cleaning tickets, while advocating for cleaning up the Anacostia and Potomac rivers and city parks, "crack[ing] down on illegal dumping" and prosecuting polluters. Wonder Woman talked about the issue, too, but confined her comments to the unfairness between Georgetown and other neighborhoods, rather than attacking street sweeping itself.
Of course, the DC government could definitely make the street sweeping system more user-friendly. For example, right now each neighborhood generally uses the same two cleaning days for every street, like Monday on one side and Tuesday on the other side. Drivers often have to drive to an adjacent neighborhood to find a usable space. DPW could reorganize the routes to stretch across most of the District on each day, sweeping one street across neighborhoods Monday, a different street Tuesday, and so on.
DC could allow drivers to register their cell phone numbers or email addresses to receive a text message or email if they're ever ticketed or towed, to avoid someone getting multiple tickets within a few hours of each other or tickets after a courtesy tow. And they should absolutely make sure they don't lose track of cars entirely due to bureaucratic mistakes.
It's true that we ought not to see ticketing drivers as a nice way to raise revenue. The ticketing system's goal, first and foremost, must be to promote the right behavior, like not parking in rush hour restricted areas or blocking street sweepers. But ending street cleaning and coping with trash-strewn, chemical-coated streets isn't the answer.
What about Georgetown? Why don't they have street cleaning? So far, I've asked many people, and gotten numerous as-yet-unconfirmed answers. Some have said that the streets are too narrow for sweeping vehicles, or that Georgetowners just didn't want to have to give up parking on one side of the street some days. All neighborhoods with street sweeping did originally opt in. Maybe the BID spends its own money to keep the neighborhood clean, or neighbors do the work themselves. At one point, the Citizens' Association of Georgetown recommended instituting street sweeping.
One source said that DPW does some manual sweeping. If they do, and if it costs DPW more to keep Georgetown clean than other neighborhoods, that's unfair. Someone else told me that they heard that as part of DC's water quality settlement with the EPA, DC will be expanding street sweeping to all neighborhoods. Either way, I'll keep investigating to get real answers. Adam is right to ask questions about the apparent inequal treatment of Georgetown and nearby neighborhoods, but wrong to recommend that we eliminate cleaning entirely, or tickets for those who don't move their cars.
I call on Matt Yglesias, Ezra Klein, and the environment-loving members of the Facebook group to rescind their support for the Green Lantern and Adam Green Goblin's plan. Instead, they should cast their votes for Wonder Woman (my recommendation), Cyborg, Superman or Spider-Man, the candidates who weren't corrupted by Adam Green Goblin's populist-sounding but dangerous proposal. If these Mayoral candidates were serious about fixing this inequity, they'd instead push for reasonable street sweeping reforms and investigate the real reasons Georgetown has no street cleaning. Since they're actually just fictional superheroes with campaigns run by national community organizers in town for a boot camp, Greater Greater Washington will investigate and push on this issue instead.
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