By Oliver Price, news correspondent
Obtaining a birth certificate and acquiring business licenses can require a time-consuming trip to the Boston City Hall, so the city is bringing the services to the streets. City Hall To Go, a food-truck-inspired vehicle, travels the streets of Boston as a mobile municipal office, giving civic processes new accessibility and ease.
Painted crimson red and sky blue, the van routinely stops at two neighborhoods every day from Tuesday to Friday for three hours and one location every Saturday for seven hours.
“Everything you can do at City Hall, you can do here,” Samantha Casto, one of the program coordinators, said. “People love it. A lot of people who see the truck then come back.”
The service is an initiative created by Mayor Martin J. Walsh in 2014. It allows the people of the Greater Boston Area to complete tasks that would otherwise require a trip to the City Hall from a van that comes to them in a one-on-one meeting with city representatives. At the time, food trucks were gaining momentum in the city, so government officials thought the van style would be an appealing aesthetic.
Officials also hoped City Hall To Go could respond to the need to extend the help and services that the City Hall offers to those unable to make the trek to City Hall due to myriad factors, something people find “super convenient,” Casto said.
The van offers a range of services, from getting a dog license to acquiring information about buying property in Boston. The three most common services that people come to the City Hall To Go van about are resident parking stickers, birth certificates and business certificates, according to Casto.
A wide demographic is represented in people who use the truck.
“Across the board, [people] between the ages of 25 to 40 [most often use the truck],” Casto said.
However, the program is still relatively small with only one truck in use. Casto said during the week, approximately seven to 12 people at lunchtime and 14 to 20 people after work come use the truck.
Danielle Ecabert, a junior pharmacy major at Northeastern University (NU) who had not heard of the initiative, liked the idea. She also praised the initiative for its potential to make life easier for those with mobility issues or other handicaps. However, because she had never heard of the program, Ecabert believes City Hall To Go needs to up its visibility.
“An increased presence would be good for public awareness,” she said.
Vishal Makhijani, a sophomore business and political science major who has helped man City Hall To Go, explained that even though access may be limited, the mobile office tries to hit highly attended public events to increase its visibility.
“City Hall uses partnerships,” Makhijani said. “If a farmer’s market or make shift event happens, City Hall comes along.”
Casto said the program aims to expand its influence by visiting more neighborhoods and introducing more trucks into the program to increase the availability of the services offered by City Hall To Go.
Not everyone is sold, however. Tyler Brophy, a freshman industrial engineering major at NU, said he questions the efficacy of City Hall To Go. He does not believe that the initiative creates any specific benefits.
“I like the traditional system,” Brophy said, referring to services directly addressed at City Hall.
However, he does recognize City Hall To Go as a “pretty good idea in regard to efficiency.”
Casto believes in the idea behind City Hall to Go: Another way the City of Boston can make life easier for its people.
“We are helping them,” Casto said. “We want to make [the public] realize we are thinking about them.”
Photo courtesy Mayor’s Office, City of Boston