Street sweepers from companies like USA Services of Florida play an essential role in keeping the streets and roadways of major U.S. cities spotless. Tut to the countless residents who rely on street-side parking, street sweepers are the bane of their existence. Every week, residents must play a game of automotive musical chairs to avoid fines and towing fees, while sanitation workers contend with leftover vehicles that get in the way of their duties.
Fortunately, recent advances in technology are making it much easier for residents to live with street sweepers while giving sanitation workers a little help in doing their jobs.
Smile! You're On Camera
Traffic enforcement cameras are a reality in numerous major cities throughout the U.S., but only in recent years have these cameras been installed on buses and other city vehicles. School districts use these cameras to catch drivers who violate state laws on passing school buses, while mass transit agencies such as San Francisco's MUNI have installed cameras to catch red light runners and parking violators.
So it's little surprise to see street sweepers being outfitted with a set of watchful electronic eyes. The city of New York is one in a growing string of cities to consider "sweepercams" for its fleet of high-tech street sweepers. As the street sweepers travel along their route, these cameras will capture vehicles parked in violation of the city's scheduled street sweeping times.
The intent behind this project isn't necessarily to punish parking scofflaws. Instead, the city hopes that the camera-equipped sweepers will encourage drivers to be more mindful of the city's parking rules. Without them, sanitation workers wouldn't be able to tackle the dirty task of cleaning the city's streets. Camera enforcement also promises to reduce the amount of city resources needed to enforce parking rules, since parking officials don't have to be physically present to fine violators.
Keeping Tabs on Sweepers
While camera-based traffic enforcement keeps tabs on parking scofflaws, citizens and city officials may also be able to keep tabs on the street sweepers themselves. Many cities are adding GPS tracking to their wish lists of tools to effectively manage city resources. Similar systems are currently in use on transit buses, giving riders an opportunity to track bus routes and avoid missing them at stops.
With GPS tracking, cities will be able to track street sweepers as they complete their routes. Residents will also be able to use their smartphone apps to pinpoint sweepers on scheduled days, giving them plenty of warning to move their vehicles before they arrive. Just as GPS tracking for buses has cut down wait times for riders at bus stops, it'll also allow drivers to return their vehicles the moment the sweeper passes by.
However, many critics argue that GPS on street sweepers might not offer the same benefits to residents as they get from tracking other city vehicles. For instance, the machines must often double back on the same stretch of street for a second pass, usually to collect debris missed on initial passes. The constant need to double back on already-cleaned routes may make it difficult for GPS tracking to give residents an accurate picture of where they are and, most importantly, when they can return their vehicles to their rightful spots.
How It's Working Out
Few cities have actually implemented GPS tracking on street sweepers. However, the idea continues to attract interest from city officials interested in improving their efficiency and helping residents with their parking troubles.
In the meantime, cities like Washington, D.C. have already installed cameras on their street sweepers, covering far more ground than what parking enforcement officers have traditionally covered in past years. Other cities are hoping to emulate D.C.'s success, although many require substantial changes in local and state laws before implementing these programs.