Are Major Cities in the U.S. Experiencing a Taco Truck Shortage?

Recently, Marco Gutierrez, founder of the group Latinos for Trump, told MSNBC in an interview that if something isn’t done about immigration in the U.S., “you’re going to have taco trucks on every corner.” Many took that hypothetical scenario and ran with it, including the Washington Post in an article titled “The national economic implications of a taco truck on every corner.”

Like the Post, I was curious: Just how many taco trucks is Gutierrez predicting? And like the Post, I found it difficult to nail down data on intersections. Instead I settled on signalized intersections in the five largest cities in the U.S. This data can be found via the cities’ respective departments of transportation. At this point I’m going to call them estimates, since the data goes back five or six years.

Next, because Gutierrez said “every corner,” I’m going to assume he meant every corner at a signalized intersection, as the following illustration shows. This way, no matter what side of the street you are on, you have access to tacos.[1]

taco-truck-intersection

The arithmetic is simple here. Take the number of signalized intersections in a city and multiply it by four. The following plot shows the explosive growth of taco trucks in the five largest cities in the U.S. based on Gutierrez’s prediction.

taco-trucks-fig-1

New York City, which has over 12,000 signalized intersections, would see the largest increase in taco trucks. But would the growth in taco trucks meet demand? The next plot shows taco trucks per capita based on 2013 population estimates.

taco-trucks-fig-2

While New York City would see the largest increase, the number of people living in NYC (8.4 million) means there would only be about six taco trucks per every 1,000 people in the city. Philadelphia, with a much smaller population of 1.5 million and 2,950 signalized intersections, would win with almost eight taco trucks per every 1,000 people.[2] It makes you wonder how cities get by these days with only an estimated 3 million food trucks in the entire United States!


[1] You’re probably thinking “This is ridiculous.” Well, it is. But not any more ridiculous than Gutierrez’s comments.

[2] Cheesesteak tacos, anyone?