A new pilot program in Rosslyn will create four zones reserved for food trucks to vend beginning Aug. 17. The initiative was spearheaded by Arlington County with input from the Rosslyn BID, police, property owners, food trucks, restaurants, retailers, and others. Depending on the feedback after six months, similar zones could be rolled out in other parts of Arlington.
The 19 parking spots in the four zones will be available exclusively to mobile vendors from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. on weekdays. Unlike the mobile vending zones in D.C., however, parking in the Rosslyn zones will not be determined by a lottery. Rather, the spots are first-come, first-serve.
Outside the zones, food trucks can still technically park in any metered spot they want. But there's a catch: Parking on N. Lynn Street—the most popular vending corridor—is now restricted to one hour. That will effectively keep trucks away, since it's not enough time for them to realistically set up and vend. Previously, food trucks could park in any metered spot for two hours.
"It's certainly not ideal," says Red Hook Lobster Pound owner and DMV Food Truck Association Chairman Doug Povich. "It could completely eviscerate vending in Rosslyn or it could turn out to be OK over time, assuming there's enough promotion of it and people are willing to change their habits in terms of how far they're willing to walk to go to get lunch."
Whereas the D.C. government created vending zones centered around the most popular truck locations, the zones in Rosslyn are located in places where trucks have not previously set up shop. "Designating vending zones or locations that are not based on situations where there's already existing demand doesn't make sense and doesn't work," Povich says. He's found that even half a block can make the difference between whether some visits a truck or not.
DMV Food Truck Association Executive Director Che Ruddell-Tabisola has a slightly more measured response. He says Arlington County and the Rosslyn BID have been "really engaging in reaching out to us and working together." He also appreciates the idea of spurring activity in less trafficked areas through food trucks. But in other places, that's happened organically. It hasn't been forced through zones. "We just don't know if the market conditions around that spot are viable for business," he says.
Rosslyn BID President Mary-Claire Burick says her group is working to educate people in the neighborhood about the zones and try to draw traffic to them. The organization has been handing out flyers this week, and it will host live music and giveaways in the zones during the rollout. In some of the zones, the BID is also adding street furniture and other landscaping. "We want to make these destinations," Burick says. (The BID has also created a survey to collect feedback.)
Burick points out that parking is a challenge on N. Lynn Street, especially with ongoing construction. "[Arlington County] was really looking at curbside management, what is the best way to utilize limited spaces so that it's fair for everyone," she says. Aside from the trucks, she adds there are people vying for spots to get to meetings or visit brick-and-mortar businesses. By shortening meter times on N. Lynn Street to one hour, Burick says they hope to encourage more turnover.
Even so, Povich says there could have been more flexibility for trucks on the corridor: "I still think there's a viable opportunity for two spaces consistent with all their other needs on North Lynn. But they didn't agree with that."
Povich typically visits Rosslyn once a week with his lobster trucks. And now? "We'll give it the old college try, and see if they work out."