Private management of the commons: Parking spots and Chicago snow

Michael Giberson

No doubt that since Elinor Ostrom won a Nobel Prize last year for, among other things, her work on decentralized approaches to common pool resource issues, a small legion of social science graduate students are looking for new cases of non-governmental management of common pool resources.

Here is an example supplied by Fred McChesney: on-street parking spaces dug out from the snow in Chicago.

Alex Taborrak notes the Washington Post reports that in Boston the city has codified a similar practice: if you dig yourself a parking spot in the snow, a lawn chair or trash can will render the space yours for up to two days.

Perhaps a comparison to reclaimed-from-the-snow parking space management practices in the Washington, D.C., area would be possible.  Given the amount of snow that has fallen in the capital area, you probably have a few weeks to collect the necessary comparative data.

ADDED: Pittsburgh offers another variant of  law and practice:

“Chairs and barriers of any type holding parking spaces on city streets are considered abandoned property and will be removed and discarded,” Pittsburgh Police spokeswoman Diane Richard told Channel 4 Action News in an e-mail.

See also the discussion by Pitt Law professor Mike Madison. HT for both links to Freakonomics.

So Chicago has an informal practice guided by custom and tolerated by the city; Boston has the practice codified into city ordinance; Pittsburgh has an informal practice which is actively opposed by the city; and Washington DC doesn’t get serious snow often enough to have a well developed custom.  Lots of angles to study.

What about Minneapolis and Milwaukee?  What about Seattle or Denver?  Any more reports?

STILL MORE: Via Market Design, where Al Roth dubs the practice “anti-social,” a Boston Globe story on claiming parking spots before the snow begins to fall, “Claiming a spot before shoveling? That’s not Southie.”