Just got back from walking the dogs, and only about half my neighbors had their garbage cans on the curb for our first day of once-a-week pickup. We’re one of the neighborhoods that moved from alley pickup to curb service, and it looks like it’s going to take people a while to figure this thing out.

Mary Nix, who oversees the city’s sanitation department, was gracious enough to answer a few questions about why we had to move from the alley to the curb. Her comments are after the jump, plus a picture that should answer most questions.

Yes, that’s the garbage truck the city is using for once-a-week. It’s wider than the old trucks — too wide for some alleys, mostly in the north and northeast parts of the city. Hence, those of us with narrow alleys have to move to the curb.

It turns out that many of the alleys are not technically alleys, which accounts for the problem. An alley, which is maintained by the city, is wide enough to accommodate the trucks. A utility easement, which is maintained by our friends at Oncor so they can get to  their electric poles, is not wide enough for the trucks — as the picture shows. Typically, the easements are 10 feet wide, with about 8 feet of pavement. The trucks are about 7 1/2 feet wide.

Nix said that the city had been using the easements for decades and didn’t think much about it until officials started planning for once-a-week. Then they noticed there would be a problem, particularly in older neighborhoods. Newer neighborhoods, she said, have real alleys and not easements.

The difficulty for those of who had to switch is not lugging the carts to the curb. It’s finding a place to keep the carts that isn’t in the alley. I’ve got two gates in my fence, and as manly as I like to think I am, there isn’t any way I can drag the carts from the alley and wrangle them through the gates without dumping garbage and recyclables.

Nix said she understands this, and offered several pieces of advice:

• It’s OK to store the bins toward the front of the house and reasonably close to the curb. They just have to be behind "the front line of the house" — that is, any part of the primary structure, parallel with the street. Which is the line of your porch if it’s roofed, but not if it’s uncovered.

• If the cart is broken — and those wheels don’t seem to last very long — call 311 and the city will send a new one or repair the old one.

• Code enforcement will work with neighborhoods that are having difficulty making the transition to the curb, and won’t start writing citations if bins are left in the wrong places.

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