HPH Chamber Speak: Street Cleaning ticketing – is there a better way?

By JoAnn Fastoff Blackman

Street cleaning is a $7.6 million city operation, including labor and printing of signs. On average, streets get swept about four times per season. Each of the city’s 50 wards is equipped with its own sweeper (Hyde Park has two). The newer ones have improved visibility for the driver and greater protection from tree limbs.

After parking violations, the second most issued ticket in Chicago is a street cleaning ticket that will cost you $60. In addition to getting a ticket, cars can be towed on certain main streets, costing drivers $150 in towing fees not including storage fees. Note: Even though the posted hours for cleaning is 9:00am to 2:00pm and you see the sweeper clean the street before 2:00pm you must still wait until the sign comes down to park on that street. What’s worse, contesting or challenging that ticket will not buy you more time. In fact, if you are found guilty you might have to pay immediately.

Some in the business say there’s no better machine available than a sweeper. They can run year round, except, of course, during inclement winter weather, though you’ll most likely see them from spring to late fall. Each sweeper has a price tag of $180,000 and each racks up approximately $45 thousand dollars in annual maintenance costs.

Former Streets and Sanitation Deputy Commissioner Charles Williams once offered a short explanation. “Without sweepers, the city would have to resort to a much more expensive option: manual labor.” Let that sink in.

Chicago utilizes mechanical street sweepers to remove debris and litter from streets. From April 1 through mid-November, bright orange temporary parking restriction signs are posted 2-3 days before sweeping service is scheduled to begin. Some major streets have permanently posted signs that specify a once-per-week period when parking is prohibited for street sweeping.

The Department of Revenue states on the city’s website that the city takes in more than $15 million in street-sweeping ticket revenue almost every year. So far this year, drivers have paid about 17 percent of the total revenue brought in from parking tickets, and the street sweeping season just got underway because winter didn’t want to leave.

Many Chicagoans believe street cleaning is a scam; just another way for the city to take people’s hard earned cash (read: parking meters, plastic bags, red light monitoring, etc.), but of course the city says that’s not true. Most Streets and San workers believe it’s not a revenue thing, and that they would prefer that drivers not park on the street so that they can actually do their jobs in keeping the streets clean.

There is some good news. According to Streets and San, “If a vehicle receives more than one street cleaning violation ticket on the same day, in the same location, the driver can contest the subsequent violations.” Also, on weekdays, from 9:00am to 2:00pm, if you’re privy to a smart phone or computer, you can view street sweepers in real time using the “Street Sweeper” online tool:


Again, the folks in Streets and San say if people just pay attention to the signs they won’t get a ticket. So the moral is, read the signs.
“…signs, signs, everywhere there’s signs…do this, don’t do that, can’t you read the sign?”