Sign in to follow this  
j_cuevas713

Why is Houston so dirty?

Recommended Posts

j_cuevas713    1,251

I took a trip to NYC a few months back and for a city as big and densely populated as it is, it sure was clean. Don't get me wrong, there were areas that had trash here and there but overall the city was very well organized and kept up with. Now I love Houston, and I understand we are a bit sprawled out but even our inner city areas don't seem up to par with just basic maintenance. Why does this city not keep up with itself? I'm actually asking wanting to know what the process is for just keeping things clean. I think one major thing I noticed was that every sidewalk in NY was clean as well. No walking in mud or trying to navigate around dumb barriers like bushes, etc.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
LBC2HTX    85

Very basic answer: People in NY are actually out on the streets, so any trash is noticed. People aren't walking around everywhere here. 

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
Reefmonkey    33
Posted (edited)

That's interesting, because the last time I was in Manhattan I noticed as I never had before how much bagged trash, not in bins, was piled up on the curbs. Maybe I was just there on trash day, but I think about downtown Houston, I've never seen bags of trash piled up on curbs, it's all placed in dumpsters. Not that I'm faulting NYC, given its layout its probably not possible for every little building in Manhattan to have a dumpster, so most of them have to put their garbage out in bags on the curb, but it certainly didn't seem neater and cleaner and less trashy than Houston on that day. I think downtown Houston is as clean as Manhattan (to which it is comparable in density and layout), if not cleaner. If you get out into the outer boroughs of NYC, you're going to see trash, broken sidewalks, mud, bushes and other stupid barriers you'll have to step around.

Edited by Reefmonkey

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
ekdrm2d1    2

My reply might offend. Holding off for now.

 

I am quick to rant about this 

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
kbates2    818
14 hours ago, Reefmonkey said:

That's interesting, because the last time I was in Manhattan I noticed as I never had before how much bagged trash, not in bins, was piled up on the curbs. Maybe I was just there on trash day, but I think about downtown Houston, I've never seen bags of trash piled up on curbs, it's all placed in dumpsters.

 

I would go with timing.  There is constantly bagged and unbagged trash on the sidewalks of downtown Houston.  It gets particularly bad on the Main Street side of Local Foods, in front of Prohibition and under the balcony of Bad News Bar.

Edited by kbates2

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
kbates2    818

But I agree that we have a big problem with trash.  All of our freeways are super littered and we just have trash everywhere.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
Twinsanity02    551

 

Houston's freeways do appear more littered than other places. Perhaps some is due to the large number of pickup trucks we have.  As useful as they are, things blow easily out the back. When I owned one I remember a few times that happened. 

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
j_cuevas713    1,251

Another major thing I noticed was that in NY there are very few grassy strips near their sidewalks for like city signs, etc. It's all paved over. I feel having to mow all these tiny patches of grass and allowing all of that to get in to our gutters doesn't help because all that debris stays there forever and nobody cleans it up. It doesn't help when those grassy strips become more mud than grass. The same goes for our medians. It's like extra maintenance for something that if paved over to the curb, would eliminate the eyesore of overgrown grass and eliminate unnecessary debris. But I think the reason we build that way is flooding, correct? I'm just confused with how the city handles litter and who is responsible for cleaning it up. It would be nice to have our medians paved over for pedestrians. Adding more usage to the land for crossing the street safely.

Edited by j_cuevas713

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
intencity77    167

As far as I know, the city doesn’t even do street sweeping anymore, well at least not on my East End street. Ten years I’ve lived here, I’ve never seen not one. The curbs get so full of thick mud and debris that I have to scrape the mess out with a large shovel every few months to keep the rain water draining properly down the street. This is basic maintenance any city should be doing, especially one that’s become notorious for catastrophic flooding where drainage should be of the utmost importance! Sometimes I honestly don’t understand what my taxes are paying for in this city.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
j_cuevas713    1,251
19 minutes ago, intencity77 said:

As far as I know, the city doesn’t even do street sweeping anymore, well at least not on my East End street. Ten years I’ve lived here, I’ve never seen not one. The curbs get so full of thick mud and debris that I have to scrape the mess out with a large shovel every few months to keep the rain water draining properly down the street. This is basic maintenance any city should be doing, especially one that’s become notorious for catastrophic flooding where drainage should be of the utmost importance! Sometimes I honestly don’t understand what my taxes are paying for in this city.

From a document dated back to 2011 on the city website, they do downtown once a week and streets outside of the core on a monthly schedule. I think they only go down major thoroughfares based off the map. Then again this is dated 2011.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
Nate99    6,336

I have had the opposite experience. Crowded midtown sidewalks often had fairly substantial piles of bagged trash when I was in NYC. I can't recall an analogous situation in Houston, mostly because (I figure) the buildings have room for their own dumpsters.  Outside of Manhattan, it is hit and miss as well, looking out the window on the LIRR through Queens will make you wistful for the bucolic beauty of the ship channel. 

 

ETA: I basically repeated Reefmonkey's observation. 

Edited by Nate99

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
Reefmonkey    33

I remember growing up in Houston in the 80s and early 90s, hearing multiple times on the traffic reports about mattresses being on fire on the sides of freeways, causing slowdowns. I went away to college, got a ticket my freshman year, had to take defensive driving, and there was a segment of the course where they encouraged people to ask any oddball questions about driving, traffic, etc. I asked about the mattress fires, and everyone looked at me like I had three heads. I guess it's just a Houston thing. Though I haven't heard about a mattress fire in decades, come to think of it.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
Reefmonkey    33
1 hour ago, j_cuevas713 said:

Another major thing I noticed was that in NY there are very few grassy strips near their sidewalks for like city signs, etc. It's all paved over. I feel having to mow all these tiny patches of grass and allowing all of that to get in to our gutters doesn't help because all that debris stays there forever and nobody cleans it up. It doesn't help when those grassy strips become more mud than grass. The same goes for our medians. It's like extra maintenance for something that if paved over to the curb, would eliminate the eyesore of overgrown grass and eliminate unnecessary debris. But I think the reason we build that way is flooding, correct? I'm just confused with how the city handles litter and who is responsible for cleaning it up. It would be nice to have our medians paved over for pedestrians. Adding more usage to the land for crossing the street safely.

My guess is that it isn't due to anything so forward-thinking as leaving grassy spots for flooding. My guess is it's mostly done to save money on concrete. Sometimes maybe because residents in the area pushed for green medians for aesthetics, but then maintenance falls by the wayside. But in aggregate, more pavement instead of grassy strips and medians is going to have an incremental effect on flooding, a larger impact on the urban heat island  effect.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
j_cuevas713    1,251
1 minute ago, Reefmonkey said:

My guess is that it isn't due to anything so forward-thinking as leaving grassy spots for flooding. My guess is it's mostly done to save money on concrete. Sometimes maybe because residents in the area pushed for green medians for aesthetics, but then maintenance falls by the wayside. But in aggregate, more pavement instead of grassy strips and medians is going to have an incremental effect on flooding, a larger impact on the urban heat island  effect.

Yeah but then you have to start to ask the question, how much more debris is going in to our gutters, creating just as big of an environmental impact compared to paving those areas over and dealing with the urban heat island effect? I feel there are more feasible solutions to the urban heat island effect by simply planting more trees along the curb replacing those grassy strips. 

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
Reefmonkey    33
9 minutes ago, j_cuevas713 said:

Yeah but then you have to start to ask the question, how much more debris is going in to our gutters, creating just as big of an environmental impact compared to paving those areas over and dealing with the urban heat island effect? I feel there are more feasible solutions to the urban heat island effect by simply planting more trees along the curb replacing those grassy strips. 

I'm not sure how much of an impact on stormwater the unpaved strips and medians contribute, if it's really significant compared to lawns, etc. The problem with trees is they need water and oxygen to get to their roots, so you can't pave right up to the trunk. Permeable pavement helps somewhat, but you've also got the issue of tree roots that will start to break up pavement. You can go with unmortared cobblestones that are still permeable and will move with the tree roots, but you're going to get weeds growing in between them. And generally for trees you need a minimum width of 5 feet, making them unsuitable for those strips of grass between the sidewalk and the road, and for all but the widest median.

 

One solution might be to plant something like buffalo grass, which is native, extremely drought tolerant and doesn't need to be watered, disease and pest resistant, and doesn't grow very tall (maxes out at between 3 and 8 inches) so doesn't need to be mowed often, if at all.

 

Sort of along those same lines, xeriscape-style plantings in medians, with drought tolerant grasses (but also need to be able to handle rain and humidity, too).

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
j_cuevas713    1,251
1 minute ago, Reefmonkey said:

I'm not sure how much of an impact on stormwater the unpaved strips and medians contribute, if it's really significant compared to lawns, etc. The problem with trees is they need water and oxygen to get to their roots, so you can't pave right up to the trunk. Permeable pavement helps somewhat, but you've also got the issue of tree roots that will start to break up pavement. You can go with unmortared cobblestones that are still permeable and will move with the tree roots, but you're going to get weeds growing in between them. And generally for trees you need a minimum width of 5 feet, making them unsuitable for those strips of grass between the sidewalk and the road, and for all but the widest median.

 

One solution might be to plant something like buffalo grass, which is native, extremely drought tolerant and doesn't need to be watered, disease and pest resistant, and doesn't grow very tall (maxes out at between 3 and 8 inches) so doesn't need to be mowed often, if at all.

 

Sort of along those same lines, xeriscape-style plantings in medians, with drought tolerant grasses (but also need to be able to handle rain and humidity, too).

Very good insight. I looked up Buffalo Grass and that is exactly what those areas need. 

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
BeerNut    426

Tokyo is next level clean.  I've done a fair amount of traveling to have formed an opinion on the reason for trashiness of Houston and other places.  Just don't get me started on the mini tent city that has moved under the overpass that I always walk under... 

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
Reefmonkey    33
On 10/23/2018 at 11:36 AM, BeerNut said:

Tokyo is next level clean.  I've done a fair amount of traveling to have formed an opinion on the reason for trashiness of Houston and other places.  Just don't get me started on the mini tent city that has moved under the overpass that I always walk under... 

I worked for a Japanese company for 10 years, with at least a dozen prolonged trips there. Spent most of my time in Chiba, but still made it to Tokyo quite a lot. What I found fascinating with anywhere in Japan, but especially the big cities like Tokyo, is how litter on the streets and sidewalks in unheard of, despite it being practically impossible to find a trashcan anywhere.

 

The one thing I didn't find so tidy about the streets of Japan is having to dodge the puddles of vomit from salarymen who had too many Suntory whiskeys the night before on my morning walk to my train. The other thing I noticed is that even with nice hotels, like the KKR right by the Imperial Gardens in Tokyo, where I stayed several times, it's neat and clean, but the interior tend to be allowed to get pretty dated, to the point of starting to look shabby.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
jgriff    361

I usually have seen the opposite. Most of the places I visit around the world appear dirtier to me than Houston. When I get back here I’m always happy to see all the trees. There are parts of Houston that are dirty and ugly but I stay away from those for the most part. Western Europe, the UK, Korea and of course India seem to be at least as dirty or worse than Houston. In India the sky isn’t even blue.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
dbigtex56    302

A contributing factor is the lack of public trash receptacles. They can be found by most bus stops, but those are frequently filled to overflowing.
Add to that the culture (or lack of same) of street dwellers who subsist on fast food, convenience stores, and handouts, and who possess an utter indifference to their surroundings. These are not people who are going to be encumbered with an empty 40oz, Big Mac wrapper, or styrofoam container when the option of dropping it is more convenient.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
skooljunkie    222

So, I think about this very topic a lot. I know I've bitched about in before on HAIF. I believe Houston has less litter than it did two decades ago. I can recall seeing trash swirling around the freeways in the 90s and 00s. I definitely see humans and trucks cleaning up litter on all the freeways regularly now. I travel around Texas a lot, and I think Houston Metro has some of the cleanest freeways in terms of litter.

 

I don't care what the City says, they do not have street sweepers going up and down the major roads. If they did, the trash and sandbars that have developed since 1989 would not exist.All that crap ends up clogging our drains and costing us more in the long run.

 

Now...the streetscapes are a whole other animal. Let's just not discuss the truly ridiculous amount of ditches in dense urban neighborhoods--that's an entire topic on it's own.  IMO the City is reactive and relies on 311 way too much. One of my biggest pet peeves is fallen traffic signs and street lamps hit by vehicles. When citizens are forced to report everything, people just assume others will do it. I've tested this many times and left fallen signs alone--they are only reported a small fraction of the time. The City will fix them within 24 hours...they have people to do this...but if you don't report, I guess the employees just don't work. The plastic water meter lids are another streetscape issue that bothers me. Thousands float away after every flood event. Require a better design and the ankle-twisting danger and constant replacement cost vanishes. Other issues: our utility companies digging holes nearly daily--spray painting everything in sight. The street in front of my house is sprayed by AT&T about every month--maybe it has something to do with the redevelopment occurring...but it seems excessive. COM wires are hanging from poles everywhere and often bundled up and tied to trashy, crumbling poles. No one cares. I had to call the Public Utility Commission to get them to cut down some wires hanging in the street a few months back---after about a month of dealing with them all, only one of the three were removed. Comcast blames AT&T, AT&T blames Centerpoint, Centerpoint blames everyone but themselves. The little grass strip is part of the problem, but there are so many other elements that need attention. 

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
j_cuevas713    1,251
9 hours ago, skooljunkie said:

So, I think about this very topic a lot. I know I've bitched about in before on HAIF. I believe Houston has less litter than it did two decades ago. I can recall seeing trash swirling around the freeways in the 90s and 00s. I definitely see humans and trucks cleaning up litter on all the freeways regularly now. I travel around Texas a lot, and I think Houston Metro has some of the cleanest freeways in terms of litter.

 

I don't care what the City says, they do not have street sweepers going up and down the major roads. If they did, the trash and sandbars that have developed since 1989 would not exist.All that crap ends up clogging our drains and costing us more in the long run.

 

Now...the streetscapes are a whole other animal. Let's just not discuss the truly ridiculous amount of ditches in dense urban neighborhoods--that's an entire topic on it's own.  IMO the City is reactive and relies on 311 way too much. One of my biggest pet peeves is fallen traffic signs and street lamps hit by vehicles. When citizens are forced to report everything, people just assume others will do it. I've tested this many times and left fallen signs alone--they are only reported a small fraction of the time. The City will fix them within 24 hours...they have people to do this...but if you don't report, I guess the employees just don't work. The plastic water meter lids are another streetscape issue that bothers me. Thousands float away after every flood event. Require a better design and the ankle-twisting danger and constant replacement cost vanishes. Other issues: our utility companies digging holes nearly daily--spray painting everything in sight. The street in front of my house is sprayed by AT&T about every month--maybe it has something to do with the redevelopment occurring...but it seems excessive. COM wires are hanging from poles everywhere and often bundled up and tied to trashy, crumbling poles. No one cares. I had to call the Public Utility Commission to get them to cut down some wires hanging in the street a few months back---after about a month of dealing with them all, only one of the three were removed. Comcast blames AT&T, AT&T blames Centerpoint, Centerpoint blames everyone but themselves. The little grass strip is part of the problem, but there are so many other elements that need attention. 

I always ask the same damn thing! If you work for Midtown Management District and your job is to focus on the neighborhood and it's needs, then why do so many people in these managmement districts act clueless when you report something on 311? There is a dirt sidewalk off Louisiana that I've reported now 5 times. The very last time one of the people from MMD couldn't figure out what location I was referring to. That made me wonder wth are they even looking at on a day to day basis.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

I get it, I know Houston has its dirty parts and maintenance has been shotty for keeping the city clean. But maybe it's because I'm from the north and haven't lived in Houston for many years, but I feel like this situation is pretty much the same across the board for a lot of major cities across the United States.

 

I mean, check out https://www.apartmenttherapy.com/dirtiest-city-in-america-new-york-study-2018-256221 . Houston is obviously in the Top 10, but just look at the amount of other cities. I can confirm places like Los Angeles and Philadelphia are downright filthy, even in areas around downtown where many major sites and businesses are. I've also lived many years around rust belt cities like Pittsburgh and Cleveland, and it goes without question that post-industrial cities also aren't the best with maintaining garbage. 

 

Houston surprised me with how relatively cleaner it was compared to other industrial cities. Downtown Houston for example, even in the few months after Harvey, impressed me with how tidy it was. Again, I'm not saying it was immaculate by any stretch of the imagination, it wasn't downtown Chicago clean, but in comparison to other downtowns I've visited it was definitely on the better side.

 

Again, I'm all for improvement, because Houston definitely needs it. But this problem isn't unique to just Houston, it's worse elsewhere.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
KinkaidAlum    2,258

Downtown is tidy because they hire private people to clean it 24-7. 

 

One thing I wish Houston did was put screens on street drains. It would keep so much of the litter from entering the waterways. It's an easy solution. Nothing pisses me off more than riding along Braes or Buffalo after a heavy rain. 

 

Also, LA is dirty because it doesn't get rain. It's dusty all the time. That said, like Boston, street cleaning is fairly active. Those trucks rumble through a few times a month. 

 

Last pet peeve, folks who go to picnic at Hermann Park and then just get up and leave all of their trash or just watch it as wind blows their bags into the reflection pool or McGovern Lake. Trashy-assed folks. I've yelled at a few people but I think we live in a culture in which people just assume others will clean up after them. Hell, I see Rice kids leave junk all over because they know maintenance will get it. Disturbing mindset.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
cspwal    2,140
20 hours ago, KinkaidAlum said:

Last pet peeve, folks who go to picnic at Hermann Park and then just get up and leave all of their trash

I think I saw that episode of Mad Men

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
dbigtex56    302
On 11/28/2018 at 1:12 PM, KinkaidAlum said:

Trashy-assed folks. I've yelled at a few people but I think we live in a culture in which people just assume others will clean up after them. Hell, I see Rice kids leave junk all over because they know maintenance will get it. Disturbing mindset.

You mean, like this guy? https://www.dailymail.co.uk/video/news/video-1414307/Stephen-Miller-booed-Santa-Monica-high-school-stage.html

 

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Create an account or sign in to comment

You need to be a member in order to leave a comment

Create an account

Sign up for a new account in our community. It's easy!

Register a new account

Sign in

Already have an account? Sign in here.

Sign In Now

Sign in to follow this