WASHINGTON DC – For several years, Washington, D.C. government officials have weighed how best to regulate the city’s wildly popular food trucks. Proposed regulations now before the D.C. Council have earned widespread public support.
One frequent argument repeated by the few vocal opponents of food trucks is that the District should herd the trucks into a limited number of designated parking spaces. These critics claim food trucks occupy parking spaces that others might use, and that mobile vendors foster sidewalk congestion. These assertions don’t withstand scrutiny. Additionally, they set up the false choice of a zero-sum game where some must win for others to lose. Smart regulations (and smart regulators) ensure that everyone subject to the rules has the opportunity to compete and win.
How can the District regulate smartly when it comes to food trucks and parking?
First, the District can dismiss arguments about the purported negative impact of food trucks on public parking spaces. If there is a parking shortage in the District, food trucks are not to blame. There are approximately eighty food trucks currently operating in the District and more than 17,000 available public parking spaces here.
Treating food trucks differently than other users of public parking is discriminatory and unfair. Brick-and-mortar restaurants use public parking spaces both to make deliveries (e.g., a pizza delivery) and receive deliveries (e.g., a delivery of food supplies). Limiting these deliveries to only designated delivery zones would pose an existential and patently unfair threat to many brick-and-mortar restaurants.
Another claim — that food trucks “steal” parking spaces from brick-and-mortar restaurant customers –is a logical fallacy. Consider that if one brick-and-mortar restaurant customer parks in a metered parking space, then that person also extinguishes the ability of others who might have frequented a different brick-and-mortar restaurant or a food truck to park in that same space.
Appeals to public safety are similarly without merit. In a Washington Post op-ed published last month, the head of the regional restaurant association urged the District to restrict where food trucks can park because those “parked near the entrance to a building” might pose a fire hazard. But the Restaurant Association of Metro Washington (RAMW) leader fails to mention that brick-and-mortar restaurant fires — including one at Hook Restaurant in Georgetown last summer that spread to neighboring restaurants–are not uncommon.
“Fire bad,” the old Unfrozen Caveman Lawyer sketch character from Saturday Night Livemight say in response. “But restaurants and food trucks good.”
It turns out that food trucks may actually provide a net parking benefit to the District. A food truck parked at a meter provides double value by paying the required meter fee and contributing (through customer sales taxes) to the District’s coffers. Food trucks may also help reduce parking congestion by bringing food to the people, which helps reduce overall parking demand.
Find the entire article by Baylen J. Linnekin at The Huffington Post <here>