Chongqing Municipality’s “University Town” subway station opened for service in December of 2012. The station made a connection point in between an area that hosts multiple satellite university campuses and the rest of urban Chongqing, China, which boasts a downtown population of 12 million.
After the stop opened, many local food vendors previously based across various bus stops and campus gates congregated at the subway station to meet the sudden concentrated demand for a wide variety of affordable snacks. For many vendors, selling food from their vehicle is their sole means of generating income. They lack the ability to find other work due to a shortage of education and skills.
Despite demand, vendors are often on the run at University Town station. Commuters park their bikes on the sidewalk and drivers of informal transportation options park next to the sidewalk. With all of this activity, the cluster of mobile vendors can congest the flow of pedestrian traffic – particularly during rush hour. To keep the area clear, the City Urban Management Enforcement Bureau, or chengguan, mount random spot checks at the subway station. This tactic is largely ineffective at keeping the area clear, but as soon as the vendors see the chengguan coming, they get on their vehicles and retreat, waiting nearby until the inspectors have passed. While the punishment for being caught by a chengguan ranges from a steep fine to having one’s vehicle seized and impounded, a core group of around ten mobile vendors continue to take their chances in order to make a living.
Post and photos by Zach Hyman.