The Department of Streets operates primarily as a General Fund agency. The Philadelphia Water Department and Philadelphia’s airports both operate as enterprise funds. Enterprise funds are financially supported by users, meaning that tax dollars do not pay for operations or capital expenditures.
The transportation system and utility infrastructure are the backbone of Philadelphia’s community and economy. This is why one of Mayor Nutter’s first actions was to reestablish the Office of Transportation and Utilities. A successful future for Philadelphia rests in no small part on the ability to provide transportation and utility services that promote a strong economy and support a high quality of life. To realize that future, a strategic approach must be applied to the oversight and planning of three city agencies and coordination of dozens of local, state and federal agencies and private entities.
The Streets Department provides essential transportation and sanitation services for the City of Philadelphia. The Transportation Division is responsible for 2,180 miles of streets, 320 bridges, 2,800 signalized intersections, 42,000 stop signs, 100,000 street lights and 18,000 alley lights. The Sanitation Division provides weekly collection of rubbish and recycling, daily commercial streets litter basket collection and street cleaning, daily enforcement of sanitation regulations, and daily illegal dumping clean-up.
The Philadelphia Water Department serves the Greater Philadelphia region with integrated water, wastewater, and stormwater services. The department’s primary mission is to plan for, operate, and maintain both the infrastructure and the organization necessary to purvey high quality drinking water and an adequate and reliable water supply for all household, commercial, and community needs. The Water Department is responsible for three water treatment plants treating an average of approximately 260 million gallons of water from the Delaware and Schuylkill Rivers each day to produce safe and high quality drinking water, and three wastewater treatment plants cleaning approximately 475 million gallons per day of sewage. It also maintains approximately 3,133 miles of water mains; 3,516 miles of sewers; 79,159 stormwater inlets; 25,195 fire hydrants; multiple finished water storage facilities; and over 30 water, wastewater and stormwater pumping stations.
In addition to retail services in Philadelphia, the utility also provides wholesale drinking water and wastewater treatment services to more than 50 neighboring communities. It also serves as the environmental entity for the city with the mission to sustain and enhance the region's watersheds and quality of life by managing wastewater and stormwater effectively. The Philadelphia Water Department, as an enterprise agency, has been insulated from drastic budget cuts. Nevertheless, it continues to seek operating efficiencies along with state and federal funding.
Philadelphia International Airport (PHL) is the only major airport serving the City of Philadelphia and surrounding counties located in Pennsylvania, New Jersey, Delaware and Maryland. In 2008, J.D. Power and Associates ranked PHL the highest in customer satisfaction for large airports. As one of the largest economic engines in Pennsylvania, it generates $14 billion annually for the local economy. Two hundred businesses linked to the Airport employ over 42,000 workers. In 2008, PHL accommodated 31.8 million passengers, including 4 million international passengers, and handled 492,000 aircraft takeoffs and landings. Twenty-nine airlines offer over 600 daily departures to 122 cities, including 40 international destinations. Three additional international destinations will be added in the summer of 2009: Birmingham (UK), Oslo, and Tel Aviv. Approximately 559,000 tons of cargo and mail are moved annually by commercial airlines and a half-dozen cargo carriers.
Although the PHL has not been subject to recent General Fund budget cuts, it is affected by city-wide increases in healthcare and pension costs. In addition, PHL is sensitive to external factors affecting the aviation industry, such as airline consolidation, reduced seat capacity, jet fuel volatility and overall weak economic conditions. Consequently, the Airport continues to maintain competitive airline rates and charges, while providing the highest level of customer service and safety.
Meetings with stakeholders as well as the public forums sponsored by the Penn Center for Public Engagement informed Streets Department proposals for revenue enhancement and operational efficiencies. Stakeholders have long advocated for an incentive based recycling program to increase the amount of recycling and reduce landfill costs. Stakeholders have also advocated for public recycling containers in commercial corridors. Comments from the public forums suggest service cuts at the Streets Department and revenue generation by the Streets Department are acceptable areas of shared pain for residents in order to meet our financial challenges.
The less waste that ends up in the landfill, the less it costs the City to provide sanitation services. That is why the Streets Department is pursuing two significant efficiencies: incentive based recycling and solar powered compacting litter baskets. These are part of a policy known as “Waste minimization,” which seeks to reduce the quantity and toxicity of waste to conserve natural resources and taxpayer dollars. Every ton of recycling saves the City on landfill costs. It is anticipated that by offering citizens an economic incentive to recycle, recycling tonnage will increase and provide a net savings of $1.5 million. Each year Philadelphia’s residents dispose of about 700,000 tons of solid waste. In 2008 about 10% of that waste was recycled, and increasing the recycling diversion rate to 30% will bring significant cost savings. In July 2008, the City deployed single stream curbside recycling, which allows residents to put all of their recyclable items in a single bin for collection. Since implementing single stream recycling citywide, recycling tonnage increased 36% compared to a year ago. In January 2009, the program was enhanced to provide weekly collection on the same day as trash collection day. The Department is modifying its regulations to reduce the maximum amount of waste residents can set out for collection to four 32 gallon containers and eight bags, about a 50% reduction from the previous limit. The Department will reduce the toxicity of the waste by no longer collecting computers and TVs at the curbside. These items can be dropped off at a number of citizen drop-off centers or at Household Hazardous Waste drop-off events.
These savings are critically important to the City’s finances, but also are important to the Administration’s “green” policies. Waste minimization conserves natural resources and reduce greenhouse gas emissions that contribute to global warming. According to the EPA, recycling one ton of aluminum cans saves the energy equivalent of 36 barrels of oil or 1,655 gallons of gasoline. In 2007, the amount of energy saved from recycling aluminum and steel cans, plastic and glass containers, newsprint and corrugated packaging was equivalent to the amount of electricity consumed by 17.8 million Americans in one year.
The Department will also pursue proposals for solar powered compacting on street litter baskets. These baskets have an increased capacity to hold litter, by compacting the litter down. Many of the litter baskets will include, for the first time, on-street recycling containers. This will reduce collections on those routes from 17 times per week to five times per week, saving nearly $1 million per year. The cost of the compactors will be funded by a State grant.
Moreover, about 15,000 small businesses currently receive City trash collection at no cost. The budget calls for these businesses to begin paying for the cost to collect their trash, just as the Philadelphia Housing Authority and Philadelphia School District pay for the cost of trash collection.
The Streets Transportation Division will use federal dollars to replace existing traffic signals with energy efficient LED traffic signals. The energy efficient signals will save the City millions of dollars over the life of the signals. The Transportation Division is also actively engaged in operational reviews that aim to maintain service levels while decreasing costs. The reviews are focused on pothole repair, street repair and street light outages. The division will continue to report its performance throughout the year.
The City will maintain core Streets Department sanitation and transportation services with minor service reductions. The Sanitation Division will close three of five citizen drop off centers. The closings will require more residents to rely on private collection for bulky items. Despite these reductions some new programs will provide benefits to customers. The Sanitation Division will focus in FY10 on the implementation of the largest incentive based recycling program in the country and realizing the savings from solar powered compacting litter baskets.
Nevertheless, the Transportation Division will no longer be able to maintain existing service levels for pot hole and ditch repair. Reductions to transportation maintenance crews will result in pot hole repair taking 72 hours instead of 24 hours. The Transportation Division has successfully pursued funds made available by the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act, to repave hundreds of City blocks. These projects will restripe miles of worn down bike lanes, bring curb cuts to current standards, replace outdated street lighting and improve drainage.