Friday, September 29, 2006

Debrisville meets the Jetsons
and we all lose our parking

Will the automated garbage collection system proposed by Mayor Nagin end up stealing our parking spaces, and raising our rates? That's the question I have reading this morning's Times-Picayune article Residents call trash pickup a mess.

When the U.S. Postal Service was pushing an end to door service in every neighborhood, residents of older city neighborhoods like my own--Mid-City--question is for a number of reasons, including the fact that we would not be allowed to park within several feet of our mailboxes. This would have ended on-street parking on my street, and effectively made my neighborhood unlivable.

Give some quick thought to what the replacement of your current garbage cans with a city-supplied receptacle to be collected by a robotic arm will mean. A quick search of other cities that have implemented similar schemes reveals a similar problem to that posed by the post mail box debacle. In Moline, Ill., and Mobile, Ala., residents are cautioned that there must be three feet clearance around the waste bin. In Miami-Dade County, Fla. the rule is five feet.

A similar rule would eliminate parking in my block, where less than half of homes have off-street parking. And that presumes that I continue to work at home and can chase away any Delgado student or neighbor who parks in front of my can. Otherwise, I will be left with a full garbage can and no-pickup. Is the city prepared to guarantee a tow truck will come, and the garbage truck return, if someone parks in front of my house while I'm gone?

Like the ridiculous idea that the urban neighborhoods of the city could install curb-side post mailboxes, this idea simply is not going to work through much of the city. Gentilly, Lakeview and the East, yes. Mid-City, Treme, Central City, Uptown--where precisely do they think we're all going to park?

Don't bother trying to call Sanitation to complain. They don't answer the phone (I've been trying to get through to ask them why I'm being charged two sanitation fees when the assessor recognizes my converted double as a single residence). I suggest you call your council-member's office instead.

The other issue I have with this is the limit it will place on the amount of garbage you can place out. Only the city-supplied container will be collected. So if you decide it's time for Spring cleaning (like anyone will have much to pitch after the flood) or god forbid you have a party, what exactly are we supposed to do with those three extra garbage bags that don't fit?

Personally, I plan on dumping them on the nuetral ground of Loyola Avenue, or better yet in front of the mayor's house on Park Island, if this boneheaded plan goes into effect.

Oh my god, I think my head is exploding.
Good on ya, Mark. I was thinking the very same thing: I don't have offstreet parking either.
My comments can only be pointedly, bloodily obscene.
Sweet zombie jezus! I was under the impression that the automated garbage crap was dead.

So it's back, and still no solution for recyclables.

This cannot stand.
If it was gone, gg, then why is it back? And who is the vendor? Midura's office says Waste Management said it couldn't be done in the central part of the city. Perhaps it's Imagine Garbage Solutions, who will haul it all away on their Party Barge to Pleasure Island.
They do this kind of trash pickup in Austin and it's not the end of the world as we know it. You gotta branch out from fucking Moline when you do your research.

The garbage truck guys just go get the can and roll it close enough to the truck if it's not within reach. If you consistently can't fit your week's worth of trash in one can, you can get an extra one, but your trash pickup bill is based on the size and number of cans you have (the system is called "pay as you throw" in Austin, a term which I'm sure N.O. is loath to mention at this point but it's coming.) If you recycle a lot or generate less trash, then you pay less. If you have an odd week with extra trash (like most folks do at Christmas, for example), you bag it and can put little stickers on them (available at grocery stores for $1) that marks them as being paid for pickup.

There are plenty of old central Austin neighborhoods that have high density, no driveways, and lots of off-street parking, and as far as I know they're not 3-stories-deep in irretrievable garbage.

There is a kind of provincial pessimism going on around the NOLA blogosphere these days that is really chapping my hide. Not matter what happens with the City, a chorus of voices cries "It's a disaster! It can't possibly work here cuz we're shpeshul!" Jeezus, if even simple changes to garbage pickup that other cities have successfully implemented can't work here because we're too fucking stupid, then you gotta ask if maybe everybody else is right and we really shouldn't be rebuilding this dump.

If picking up the trash is an intractable problem, then how do you expect to implement solar power and mayoral recalls and wetland restoration and volunteer citizen cadaver teams and all that other crap?
I dealt with this system of trash pickup while in exile in SoCal. Works well there, but it cannot work in most of New Orleans.

If it comes to pass, choose a 90 gallon can. (Of course it's gonna be hard for the elderly and the disabled to move the damn things.) Of course the can will block the entire sidewalk and the walkway between houses. Paint your house number on it because if it's stolen, it's gonna cost you to get another one.

This whole scheme is utter poop.
Ray, there are no "garbage guys" mentioned in anything I've read about this. The assumption is the driver is doing the pickup.

I stopped looking after Moline, Mobile and Miami-Dade Co. All require a clearane of three to five feet for the arm to operate. I will go poke around some more and try to find a city that doesn't have a FAQ that calls for a clearance.

Also, Waste Management told the city this would not work here, based on a single-operator (nobody to move the can into the street), which is what Sanitation has clearly describing. If Austin still has crews to muscle the cans, then they do not have what is environsioned by Sanitation and the Mayor for NOLA>

If they do this or return to trying to require a post mailbox, they are going to confiscate my on-street parking, which is going to be a huge deal in my neighborhood, and castastrophic in places Uptown or Marigny/Baywater.
Asheville, N.C. -- five feet. They mark an X on the city street where the can must go.

Baton Rouge -- three feet.

Mantua Township (wherever) -- four feet.

Ann Arbor, MI -- three feet. Cannot be under branches, wires or other overhangs less than 15 feet. This alone would disqualify a lot of NOLA, unless they have Entergy, Cox and BellSouth come out and restring a lot of wiring.

Pretty much everywhere I look (I have to get back to work) has a setback requirement. And the Ann Arbor rules about trees and wires will be a real problem.

I don't think we're being prima donna's, Ray. We're looking at some of the ideas coming out (like converting everyone to post mailboxes) and saying that will not work.
Well, in Austin they have no such thing. You put the cans out just like the old cans, and the trash gets picked up. So maybe it's a possibility that this scheme will work here, we just have to do it differently from Baton Rouge. WE have to tailor it to our environment. I agree that giving up all on-street parking is a non-starter, but it doesn't make sense to throw out the whole scheme because of that. Just adjust the process so that on-street parking can remain.

I mean, this way of picking up trash is not some new-fangled wacky idea that the City just came up with one night when they were drunk. More and more cities do it this way and New Orleans is kind of behind the times. It is not a looming disaster that is going to kill all of our neighborhoods. We have the Corps for that, anyway.
I agree it makes sense, Ray, in Lakeview, Gentilly and N.O. East. Hell, just about anywhere with laws and off street parking.

Even Waste Management told Nabob and the Council that city-wide automated with a single operator wound't work, so Nabob went off and got hisself a new contractor, but even Midura's office doesn't know who it is.

No one would object to this is the tract-house laid out parts of the city. It's just insance to even contemplate it as proposed in the core city.

If you really want to get wound up about something, go read Kim's catch on Dangerblonde, the explanation of why we're getting once a week pickup: because we have to pay WM the same amount for half the population, so the solution is to pay them as if they were collecting the entire city, and have collections.

Man, that Ray sure can negotiate a contract. No wonder he got out of private industry.
I was going to respond to this discussion earlier, but before I could, Ray (blogger Ray, not C. Ray) seems to be channeling me today. I agree with everything he's said and have had experience with automated garbage pick up while in exile in the Houston area, 1999 - 2002. In addition to the areas ALWAYS mentioned by NO Bloggers, let's not forget Algiers, currently still part of the New Orleans section of "this part of the world" accounting for 20 - 30% of the population, and thus contributing to 20-30% of keeping Waste Management solvent. Automated pick up would work very well in most of Algiers.
The whole story struck me as ridiculous. I don't know whether to suspect cronyism or insanity. I suspect that, like a kid who had a toy taken away, Nagin is bound and determined to use that very favorable $150M loan. He's certainly spending it. I can't help suspect cronyism even there. Although it does involve national banks that would consider the upfront money chicken feed, somebody's getting a commission.

Ray, the issue is trying to implement expensive improvements to some services when the city can't affored other basic services. Also it's not native New Orleans cynicism to suspect cronyism and corruption when so many new spending programs are implemented with as little transparency as possible; that's common sense everywhere. I'm too tired and too angry to come up with the obvious jokes about rotten smelling deals, but this administration awarded some strange contracts in that area both before and after Katrina.
After thinking about it more, I realize that 20-30% of the population does not equal 20-30% of the garbage fees. The point of course is that Algiers is often forgotten in NO Blogger World when referencing areas of New Orleans.
Here's an article about what motivates pay as you throw programs in other cities:

I haven't researched this real thoroughly, just ran across the link.

Austin has the same regs about can placement in their online FAQ as the cities you describe, but the online rules clearly differ radically from what is done in reality. At our old house, trash pickup was done from an alley and so our cans were always directly under the main power lines for the block. This was never a problem. Neither were tree branches. They work around that shit, just like they do in every other city.

Initially in Austin they made it sound like it would just be one driver per truck and the mechanical arm would do everything, but nobody really believed that that will be the case and in fact it's not the case.

The driving motivation here is getting people to reduce the amount of household garbage that they send to the landfill by encouraging recycling and composting, partly by standardizing can sizes so that people can be charged for the amount of garbage they throw away, instead of the current system where you pay a flat rate no matter how wasteful you are. I have no problem with that motivation.

I won't argue with the potential for kickbacks and graft. My point was that the notion that New Orleans is uniquely ill-suited for this program based on physical characteristics is simply not true. Let's take on the corruption angle by itself and not cloud the issue with other stuff that is less well-informed.
I'll leave out all speculation about graft and corruption. The best you could say about the mayor is that he has the attitude of a homeowner who needs to replace his roof, has major damage from termits and a sinking foundation as well. The sort of homeowner who decides that if going to need to take out the loans to pay for that, he might as well take out even more loans and build an addition to the house and maybe throw in a pool, a cabana and a three car garage as well. as well. Except the mayor seems to care more about building the pool than fixing the house.
I think in the next few years we should see some of the influence of Wal-Mart's packaging reduction initative trickling down into saving everyone in whole lots of ways.

Gotta love those market forces. Some bean counter figured out what everyone knew already and got himself a corner office.

Too bad C. Ray's gone completely off the invisible hand, though, and onto the imaginary hand that feeds him.
Ray, I spent my Exile in Austin. The garbage situation is more uniform but where I lived in the stylish Travis Heights people would stuff bags in your can at night.

I used to put my garbage in the trunk of my car and dump it at my daughters school in the dumpster.

People gave us lots and lots of stuff as evacuees. Unfortunatly a lot of it was stuff that the local charities would not take and we spent months slowly throwing it out.

Yes, people are upset about this, and it may seem trivial but this system is not encouraging people to recycle. That would happen if they just started to pick up our recycling.
I'm not arguing against pay as you throw. I'm arguing against automation. If they end up with three man crews again, how the hell are we going to pay for these fancy new trucks except by higher rates?

We don't need automation to enforce pay as you throw. What we do need is a mayor who's more concerned about breaking the current assinine Waste Management contract that guarantees them the same return on half the population, resulting in halved pickup.

I still do not see how any sort of mechanized collection is going to work with 95 gallon cans placed on the inside of parked cars, unless the arm can hump them over the cars they way the garbage crews sometimes do know.

What will happen is: it won't work with a single crew, so they will have to add a guy or two to each truck (as Ray indicated Austin had to do). And so we will have to pay the contractor more ('cause I can just about guarantee that the contractor will know about Austin and other places' experience, and write the contract that way), which will bump our rates up. But not before the arm bangs up a lot of parked cars or a lot of people are left hosting Maggot Fest in their cans when the contrator skips them.

Pay as you throw is not a bad idea. Mechanized collection in inner areas (let's inclue the Point now to be fair) will not work well. Sure, put be on the 95 gallon can, but you're going to have to rely on human collection.
It's trash comment city, dude. Ray, besides the graft and corruption, the reason for my skepticism on this form of pickup is City Hall's inability to plan for contingenices. I've done a bit of research and Sanitation thinks they can do an all mechanized system in all parts of the city. People should contact their council offices and urge them to lobby Veronica White to do some planning for the vast areas of the city where parking is a problem. One thing I like about the idea is people will *have* to get trash cans now.

Btw, there is NO plan to restart recycling next year.
Is there new information about recycling? At Stacy Head's neighborhood meeting last month, the woman from santitation said that curbside recycling would restart in January.
As Nixon's flack Ron Ziegler once said that statement (about recycling) is inoperative.
Atlanta has a similar system, but the trucks are manned with a full crew. I think its faster than the old way.

When the system was implemented Maynard Jackson was mayor (the first time). The cans were called Little Maynards.

I don't think a fully automated system will work here, but I could be wrong.


Why not put the contract out to bid and allow the vendors to propose the method they want to use, then pick the low guy.
You're a zany madcap, Mominem. Why would they do such a thing? Next thing, you'll expect them to enforce a contract.
In Austin there is no space station-like "robot arm" plucking cans straight from the curb. There is an automated lever at the back of the truck that lifts the can and empties it. You still need a human to roll the can to the back of the truck so that the lever can grab it. With this scheme, I don't see any physical constraints that are any different from what we have now.

Austin's experience is that pay as you throw combined with curbside recycling drastically increases recycling rates and reduces volume of landfill material. To do pay as you throw, you need standardized can sizes.

How they actually get the trash from the cans to the truck, I don't really care.

Does anybody *really* think they're about to implement a trash program that involves turning all of Mid-City into one giant No Parking zone?
Is the lack of recycling come January common knowledge, or announced, or is this insider information (possibly leaked by Karl Rove)?
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
I would never underestimate the ability of the Nagin administration to miss the obvious and fuck up an important contract.

Every automated,single-person truck city I can find has setbacks of as much as five to six feet.

On last Monday I checked about once an hour all day, and estimated that if it were garbage day three houss would have been collected.
I see you gave up, Anon. Have you lived in Algiers/Nola long? 28 years for me and I can tell you Nola proper will never admit to Algiers being part of them. Oh, MAYBE The Point is tolerable, but certainly not "tract house" neighborhoods.
I apologize for the name-calling.
I'm tired. But what's so is so.
I want my garbage pick up twice a week and recycling back. I'm sick to death of filth and garbage everywhere. Everywhere!
Is it really too much to ask to step into the 21st century? Automated would be great in my neighborhood, I'm for it.
Those neighborhoods that can't or won't accept it - keep the old way. Wow. What a novel idea.
Yes, TM, I gave up after I made my points - automated pick up is good and Algiers is part of New Orleans. I'm not skilled enough to go up against the likes of those debating here, although I do share a high school alma mater with a couple of them. I do thank Ray though for his valiant efforts. And to all, beware of provincial pessimism.
Yo Mark, C Ray said that George Jetson's world is comin' to New Orleans. You writin' his speeches now?
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