Friday, September 10, 2010

Free the food truck

by Edward L. Glaeser

Boston Globe
September 9, 2010

Economists like myself often present themselves as dispassionate data-driven analysts, but I can maintain no such detachment toward the cause of the food truck. When I came to Cambridge 20 years, I was sustained by the kung pao chicken provided by a Chinese food truck parked outside of my office. Now, I want to give back and join the movement to free the food truck from the fetters of unfortunate regulation.

Over the last month — while so many of us were idling away August — Boston became a hub of food truck action. On Aug. 8, Mayor Menino ate pickles at the Food Truck Festival, where hundreds lined up for Speed’s hot dogs and Big Moe’s M&M Ribs. The city has issued a “Food Truck Challenge,’’ where would-be vendors compete for space on City Hall Plaza. City Council President Michael Ross has also become an ardent food truck advocate, and he presided over a City Council hearing last week on easing the regulatory barriers to food trucks.

Why do food trucks matter? In the 19th century, the world was poor and people chose their cities because of wages, which often reflected productive advantages, like waterways or coal mines. As Americans became wealthier, they increasingly chose their locations because of quality of life rather than wages, and that initially pulled people to the simple pleasures of greenery, safety, and year-round warmth found in the sunbelt and the suburbs.


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