The Art, Science, and Timing of Street Sweeping
We receive input from residents (and even biologists) about our street sweeping operation every year – many noting that it appears that we start the fall sweep operation before a majority of the leaves have fallen. There are many factors that impact why we start our operations when we do, but foremost is that we have a very short window between when leaves begin to fall and when the first snow or freeze may occur.
We are constantly monitoring the trees, but measuring the amount of leaf drop is a very subjective process. We take into account and adjust for the different drop rates for different trees in different corners of the city. Unfortunately, the oaks, maples, aspens and cottonwoods don’t all perfectly align their schedules.
Weather, time and budget permitting, we sometimes circle back to streets swept early in the process to clean up as much of the organic matter as possible. The second pass begins only after we are able to successfully complete the first round of all streets. Crews do not post “no parking” signs for the second pass through.
Unfortunately, there is no perfect science to determine the optimal start time for sweeping, but our experience has shown that starting earlier helps ensure we can sweep all streets in Saint Paul.
Spring sweeping typically begins in late April to early May, but can vary greatly due to the weather and the amount of snow and ice melt in the spring.
During the annual residential spring sweep, Public Works crews will sweep both the residential streets and alleys.
Both the fall and spring residential sweeping schedules rotate which areas/neighborhood get swept in which order. This is why some years it might seem like your residential sweep is earlier or later than the previous year.
The City uses two types of sweepers, the Elgin Pelican and the Elgin Crosswind. The Pelicans have capacity to pick up gravel, leaves and debris as well as sand and dirt.
The Pelicans can empty their loads directly into dump trucks so all of the sweepings can be hauled away to be recycled, composted or sent to the landfill. Because of the screening that is done, very little goes to the landfill.