Where Madison will host its late-night food carts continues to be an issue for the city's Vending Oversight Committee. January's meeting found the committee still looking to alleviate problems discussed in the fall of 2012, particularly in a popular block on Broom Street between West Gorham and West Gilman. There, a proliferation of carts created competition with brick-and-mortar restaurants in the same area, as well as traffic congestion.
Street vending coordinator Warren Hansen and the committee have revised the locations that are permissible for late-night vending, jettisoning several areas that have not proven successful for the carts from a business standpoint, and limiting the number of sites on Broom Street. In turn, the committee proposes opening up other sites to accommodate the current number of late-night vendors.
The Library Mall will no longer be a late-night cart site, due to lack of foot traffic and its forthcoming reconstruction. Likewise the 400 block of Frances Street will no longer be available due to construction of the luxury apartment complex "The Hub." Several spots on West Johnson will be crossed off too, due to unpopularity and nearby construction.
Instead, it's proposed that two carts be allowed in the 300 block of Frances (near the Fluno Center); two at West Gilman just north of University Avenue, two at Frances near the Towers, one at West Gilman just north of State Street, and one at a new spot at Lake Street and University Avenue (in front of Associated Bank). Two carts would still be allowed on Broom between Gilman and Gorham. This strategy breaks up the largest cluster, yet tries to pair carts to create more of a customer draw to a given area.
A new regulation is that the number of late-night food licenses will be capped at 10, allowing everyone who's currently vending to continue. Newcomers will have to wait for someone else to drop out. Choice of areas will be determined by seniority, based on date of purchase of the original vending license.
Yet site assignments will not guarantee a specific parking place. Late-night vendors have to wait and obtain metered street parking when spots become available within the confines of the permitted areas.
This need to jockey for metered spaces is part of what created the traffic problem on Broom Street, yet the city cannot "reserve" public parking spaces for the carts. That would violate the state motor vehicle code.
"This is a work in progress," says Hansen of the effort to start moving the carts off Broom Street and trying other locations. "Hopefully everyone will have a successful season."
This new configuration will be taken up at the next Vending Oversight Committee meeting on Feb. 19.
Late-night fees have also been increased, with the license for a pushcart going from $125 to $200 for a year and a full-sized cart going from $350 to $500.