Monday, April 16, 2012

A Ways To Go On Food Trucks

I seem to have a lot of entries about dining and all of the new places going in downtown, but short of Centrepointe and 21c there is little else to speak of.  Any new offices lease their space and (sometimes) remodel, then just set up and go to town. No major announcements, no fanfare.  I guess the dining and entertainment news will have to suffice as development news.

One subject on the dining front is the movement toward food trucks and carts.  It does seem that we are again trailing the rest of the country in allowing food trucks, but we also appear to be looking at allowing them just in the downtown area.  Is this not a community wide service for which we have little or no rules?  Should not all of our ordinances apply across the whole of Fayette County?  Is downtown the only location that the food trucks wish to serve?

There are many websites which describe  the food truck situation in cities throughout America and a few of them have maps which display the locations of certain vendors, either on a semi-permanent or rotating basis.  The site for Austin, Texas is broken into several sections and shows only four food trucks in all of their downtown.  Far fewer that any other section mapped.  It also appears that their downtown covers much more territory, as one would expect for their population.

A larger population, a larger area, more density and greater diversity and only 4 food trucks to serve them.  Why are we trying to be so different?

I have heard some news reports that there is fear that food trucks could impinge upon parking spaces or loading zones for hours at a time.  I can see the concern, but I look at the timing and size of the local beer delivery vehicles as more of a problem.  Food deliveries do not seem to be a major factor for all of the restaurants and, I guess, they take place in the early morning. On my noontime walkabouts, it is the sheer number and size of the beer delivery trucks (and where they park) which I see as a deterrent to downtown traffic movement.  

One day I saw 4 or 5 extended length trailers on Short at Cheapside at one time, three were from the same distributing company.  Three truck, four or five men in one location blocking a full lane of traffic for an unknown time span.  Should we not be doing something about that?  I seriously think that the situation is worse by campus on most days.

Comments have also been made about the two announced hotels and their delivery docks or lack thereof, but our growing dining and entertainment district draws no such attention.  I believe that it should.

The proposed regulations have provisions for length of stay at any one location and the frequency with which any particular food truck may return to said locations and they all look to be centered on the downtown area.  Could that be because our suburban streets are not amenable to locating such street vendors on public property?  What should stop several of these vendors from setting up along side some of our larger parks this summer and appealing to the visitors of our evening sports or music events?  I can imagine the Big Band and Jazz series or afternoon/evening ball games with specialty foods for a quick dinner, can't you?

The discussion on food trucks looks to me to have a long way to go, but at least we have a start.

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