Cars parked in front of rowhomes in North Philly. (Danya Henninger/Billy Penn)

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If you’re stressed about moving your car for Memorial Day street sweeping, the city has a message for you: relax and enjoy the holiday, my friend.

Cleaning crews are taking the day off, too. 

So if you’re parked on a block where sweeping usually happens on Mondays, there’s no need to rush back early from the shore to avoid being fined — and no confusion about trying to remember the following day. 

“Blocks scheduled for service that day will not receive service until the next week, on the regular scheduled day,” Streets Dept. spokesperson Keisha McCarty-Skelton confirmed to Billy Penn. “The service is not pushed back one day like trash and recycling collections.”

Philly expanded its sometimes controversial street cleaning program to 14 areas this year. 

The program relaunched in April, and after giving car owners a month to get used to it, the Parking Authority started ticketing in early May. Any cars that block sweepers on a street’s appointed cleaning day are subject to a fine. Memorial Day is the first major holiday since ticketing started in earnest.

How to check if you’re on a Monday block

Sweeping takes place in designated areas between 9 a.m. and 3 p.m. on Mondays through Thursdays, except on official holidays. 

Within each of the 14 zones, different sets of streets have been assigned a cleaning day. 

You can check if you’re in a street sweeping area, and which day you need to move your car, at the StreetSmartPHL site. Plug in your address, click “SweepPHL,” and select the “All Route Locations” button.

In six of the zones the city has also posted street signs telling people when to move their cars, and it’s in the process of putting up signs in the other eight. 

The areas include parts of Fairhill, Kensington, Port Richmond, Germantown, Nicetown, Frankford, Strawberry Mansion, West Philly, Southwest Philly, and South Philly. Detailed maps and schedules are available on the city’s Mechanical Street Sweeping page.

The fine for blocking sweepers is $31, according to the Philadelphia Parking Authority website.

After a long hiatus, a return to moving cars

The question of whether car owners should have to move their vehicles has been central to the long struggle over restoring street sweeping throughout the city. 

In the 1950s Philadelphia had regular street sweeping and was repeatedly named the cleanest town in the country. But cleaning programs took a hit in the 70s due to cutbacks in federal funding.

By the early 2000s the Streets Department eliminated its street sweeping unit, reportedly in part because residents complained that they didn’t want to move their cars. For years Philly was the only large U.S. city with no comprehensive street sweeping program.

When he was running for mayor, Jim Kenney promised to bring back sweeping. In an effort to avoid making residents move their vehicles, the initial seven-neighborhood pilot in 2019 had workers with backpack blowers and brooms move trash around cars and into the street for a mechanical sweeper to pick up.

After the resulting noise and pollution drew complaints, the city dropped the blowers and required people to relocate their vehicles. 

In 2021 Kenney said the city would spend $62 million over five years to effectively restore citywide sweeping, leading to this year’s expansion and plans to add more neighborhoods in 2024.

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Meir Rinde is an investigative reporter at Billy Penn covering topics ranging from politics and government to history and pop culture. He’s previously written for PlanPhilly, Shelterforce, NJ Spotlight,...