Students say vending push carts make walk to class challenging

by Angelica LaVine / Beacon Correspondent • October 3, 2013

Vending carts were moved to Tremont Street because of construction in Downtown Crossing.
Vending carts were moved to Tremont Street because of construction in Downtown Crossing.

As students cross the intersection between Boylston and Tremont Streets between classes, a new obstacle will stand in their way — three vending push carts. 

On Sept. 19 the carts, which sell food and baseball hats, moved from Downtown Crossing to 180 Tremont St., right outside the Ansin Building. 

According to Margaret Ings, Emerson’s associate vice president for government and community relations, the carts’ sponsoring corporation, Downtown Boston Business Improvement District, moved them out of their previous location on the corner of Franklin Street and Washington Street because of construction at the old Filene’s Department store site.

The Boston Business Improvement District, which manages the independently-owned vending carts, has been working to find temporary locations for the vendors while the construction is in progress. 

Ings said that the new locations, including spots on Winter Street, Summer Street, and Tremont Street, were chosen for their proximity to the business improvement district in downtown Boston. The Tremont Street carts are not considered to be on Emerson property because they are on the sidewalks, which are owned by the City of Boston, said Ings. 

Omar Lobez, owner of the Best Caps cart now located on Tremont Street, said the new location has caused a significant decline in his business. Lobez, who said he has been working as a street vendor in Downtown Crossing for 15 years, said he and the other vendors are missing out on the heavy foot traffic from tourists in Downtown Crossing. 

Lobez said his business could benefit from tourists if his cart were located on the Boston Common side of Tremont Street; however, he said that only carts operating through an affiliation with the Boys and Girls Club of Greater Boston are permitted to be there. 

According to Lobez, Emerson students most frequently pass his cart on the way to class. Lobez said that because of this, the only cart of the three succeeding in the new locale is the food stand.

“College kids like to eat, but don’t have money for—or interest in—merchandise that is sold at my cart,” he said.

He said he is hopeful that with the Red Sox entering the post season, more people will be encouraged to buy some of his hats. 

According to  Rosemarie Sanstone, the president of the Downtown Boston Business Improvement District, her group made adjustments after the first week of operations on the Tremont Street location. 

She said one stand there has already been set to close and another will soon be moved to a new location. Only one vendor, the food cart, might remain on Tremont Street until the end of March. 

“Right now,” she said, “[Tremont Street] is still a wait-and-see test location.”

Presently, students said they must migrate toward the exterior wall of the Ansin Building in order to enter the building for class, as nearly half the sidewalk is now occupied by carts. Some said this poses a challenge when trying to get to class on time. 

Katie Graham, a junior writing, literature, and publishing major, said she travels between the Walker and Ansin buildings multiple times each school day. She said before the carts arrived, it was already crowded outside Ansin at peak times, like at noon, 2 p.m., and 4 p.m., but now it is even worse.

“I understand that students are probably a great target group for the vendors to sell to, but they make getting to and from class even harder than it already is on a pedestrian sidewalk in the city,” said Graham.

Lauren Vislocky, a senior communication disorders major, said she was puzzled when she first saw the pushcarts near Emerson. 

“They showed up out of nowhere, and they are taking up too much space on the sidewalk,” she said. 

Hannah Kole, a junior visual and media arts major, wondered if the vendors came to campus with the direct intention of selling their merchandise to Emerson students. 

“I kind of understand the food vendor, but I don’t get why there is a person selling hats,” she said. “No one is going to want to buy a hat in the middle of their school day, especially since we aren’t a big sports school.”