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Peter’s Take: Rosslyn Food Truck Pilot Worth Trying

peter_rousselot_2014-12-27_for_facebookPeter’s Take is a weekly opinion column. The views and opinions expressed in this column are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of ARLnow.com.

On Aug. 17, Arlington County launched a six-month food-truck-zone pilot program in Rosslyn:

The program — designed to create pedestrian-friendly food truck access for area workers and residents — sprang from discussions among food truck owners, local restaurateurs and County and [Rosslyn] Business Improvement District [BID] staff. Participation is voluntary, meaning food trucks can park in other areas of Rosslyn and the County, provided owners observe the parking rules for those streets.

Four Rosslyn pilot zones have been established:

  • On 19th Street N. just past N. Lynn Street
  • Along Wilson Blvd above N. Kent Street
  • At the intersection of N. Nash Street and Wilson Boulevard
  • On N. Pierce Street along Wilson Blvd

Food trucks can park for four hours rather than two in these zones.

Background

In developing this pilot, the County took a holistic view of curbside management, soliciting input from both food trucks and brick and mortar (B&M) establishments. In selecting the zones, the County and the BID pursued a consumer-centric approach. The goal: maximize public spaces, parking and infrastructure so that all retail establishments (B&M and trucks) are visible and easy to access.

Since the launch, the BID has continued proactively to communicate with and collect feedback from the community, food trucks and other stakeholders. The goal: to help inform how the zones might evolve. Most people in Rosslyn who were surveyed about the zones (through an online survey and by BID staff on the street) appreciate that N. Lynn Street is less congested. A majority of the respondents initially surveyed (68.75 percent) indicated they approve of the zones.

For the most part, those who do not approve of the zones would like to see the trucks return to N. Lynn Street. During the current Central Place construction, this is not feasible, but it may make sense for the trucks to return after construction ends in the first quarter of 2016.

Discussion

Any fair appraisal of this Rosslyn experiment must answer the question: compared to what?

Based upon the experience and feedback developed during this worthwhile pilot program, the County and the Rosslyn BID will be better positioned to answer critical questions about food trucks.

If some zones are better than no zones, the County and the BID must find a balance among:

  • expanding zones in size to allow each to hit a critical mass, while
  • complying with Arlington’s Vending Ordinance, and
  • trying to avoid empty or near-empty zones, and
  • deciding whether two or some other number of hours is the most appropriate incremental food-truck-parking benefit

If there continue to be advocates for no zones, the County and the BID must provide convincing reasons why some zones are better than none.

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