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Washington, DC's Lottery-Rotation System for Food Trucks: A Step in the Right Direction Open Access

DC officials enacted a Mobile Roadway Vending lottery in December 2013 that allocated street-metered parking spaces to the 250 food trucks operating throughout the District. Its creation was predicated on the belief among DC administrators that food trucks inject vibrancy into the urban environment and create job opportunities. Across America, though, expert regulators' and political leaders' opinions vary on how food trucks should be managed to accommodate the concerns of stakeholders who share limited street parking. By comparing DC's lottery-rotation system to pure lottery and auction systems, we reveal the difficult-to-attain middle ground sought by officials who are caught between allocating parking through a lottery or through an auction sale that can possibly favor a wealthy minority. We acknowledge the benefits found in the District's decision to create a policy that allows vendors the flexibility to roam for available street parking in some areas and to compete in a semi-random lottery for guaranteed parking in other areas. We suggest the lottery-rotation system's major inefficiencies would be largely remedied by a secondary market allowing vendors autonomy to make as-needed parking trades. We conclude by asserting that, while the lottery-rotation system is economically inefficient, it is part of a broader, reasonable first effort that strikes an economic and political equilibrium in a dynamic industry and regulatory landscape.

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