City works to improve conditions for food carts during State Street construction

Since construction finished on Library Mall, food cart owners say seating is better, but space and electricity are lacking.

Since construction finished on Library Mall, food cart owners say seating is better, but space and electricity are lacking.

Image By: Thomas Yonash

The Vending Oversight Committee said Wednesday Madison's food cart environment has improved since Library Mall construction finished, but more solutions are still being sought.

The committee compared this year’s planning around construction on the 700 and 800 blocks of State Street to what Street Vending Coordinator Warren Hansen referred to as last year’s “nightmare.”

“Overall, I think the redesign is very successful,” Hansen said. “It’s more spacious, there’s much more seating and the seating is elegant … It’s just that everybody is crammed into one block now and that was not the case before.”

Vendors have experienced some issues with access to electricity and space, especially since the Wisconsin Historical Society vetoed having food trucks on the 800 block in the immediate future.

“It is tough getting in and out of there,” said Banzo food cart owner Aaron Collins. “But everybody’s adjusting.”

Collins described the difficulties carts deal with in competing with neighbors for electricity; some carts use generators while others connect to electricity poles.

Hansen said the city tries to match the carts that need electricity to sites near poles, but there aren’t enough. He said he was previously told there would be enough electricity for everyone and no need for generators, but that is not the case. There are 20 vendors but only enough electricity for 15.

Collins said he still likes the changes.

“It’s much more inviting and seems to be, including for customers, a nice place to sit,” he said. “The flow is better.”

“Except for the flow of electricity,” Hansen joked.

Meanwhile, construction will soon begin on West Main and South Carroll Streets, displacing any vendors on that corner. A few vending sites will also be affected until September by construction in the southeast campus vending area on West Dayton and North Charter Streets.

Also in the meeting, Tim Sobota, a Metro Transit planner, presented a change to city ordinance that would allow more room between bus shelters and outdoor cafes for bus passengers to exit. While the change could be particularly helpful to wheelchair users, he said it would benefit everyone.

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