Street Cleaning

Based on a several weeks of highly unscientific observation, we’ve come to the dismaying conclusion that motorized street cleaning in Los Angeles doesn’t work.

This, we know, isn’t exactly shocking news. But if what we’re concluding is indeed true — and the more unscientific observing we do, the more certain we become — our city is wasting millions of dollars every year making the pavement wet for a couple of hours a week.

Here’s what happens: Large trucks with scouring brushes mounted front and back scour the street, particularly against the curb, spraying a light film of water in their wake. Thus do our streets become “clean” — except that these special trucks leave behind 80-90% of the detritus they’re meant to remove, and the flotsam tends to collect in concentrated bunches that appears even less “clean” than before the special machines have done their business.

Why spend huge sums to accomplish nothing? Because “street cleaning” probably turns a net profit. Whatever it costs the city to operate the useless trucks is more than made up for in parking tickets. You’re not allowed to park on a street that’s being cleaned; but people always do, and the enforcement officers are on the spot, hand-held computer at the ready.

There’s something quite elegant about the whole arrangement. The citizenry feels (mistakenly) that the Department of Public Works is performing a civic improvement, when what it’s really doing is fund-raising, all the while providing jobs for truck drivers and maintenance crews, who help keep our streets pleasantly wet.

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