Why parking tickets are good for you

A town in west Wales has currently has no-one enforcing its parking rules. Aberystwyth used to have police run traffic patrols but these ended at the end of March. The local council is to take over responsibility for enforcing parking rules, but they say it will take a year for them to put a system in place.

This may sound like a great situation. The freedom to park wherever you want without having to worry about whether you will get a fine. Just stop right by the shop that you want to go into, what could be better than that? But what has really happened in the first two weeks since the enforcement stopped?

The town has immediately descended into chaos. As motorists now believe there is no risk of being fined for parking illegally they have taken to parking anywhere and not worrying. This is even though the effect is more traffic congestion for everyone.

This is a classic example of the tragedy of the commons. The roads are a shared resource for everyone, each individual thinks that their parking will not cause a problem but when this is multiplied across many people then there is a big problem.

Amazingly the council are quoted as saying, ‘it is the responsibility of all motorists to park sensibly’. Looks like they need a lesson in game theory!

Today’s takeaway: You can’t rely on individuals to follow the rules when it is in their self-interest not to, you need to enforce the rules.

Here are the BBC stories on the problem:

Parking chaos

Selfish drivers

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