Tragedy of commons

I’ve been noticing the tragedy of commons popping up everywhere. From way we write software and way we travel. Here’s one we are trying to solve at our office.

We have 30ish parking slots for our company in building we work. There are a lot more cars than the available parking slots, that causes people to use unclaimed parking slots first or park by paying money. This seems like a classic case of Tragedy of commons.

Parking lot is a shared and limited resource, and we’d like to maximize the usage. There is a lot of research on how to solve the ‘tragedy of commons’. Typically there is a choice between two extreme solutions

The Marxist Maoist way is to bring regulations on appropriate usage of the parking lot. It could be fair (Like making Cars use a slot alternate days) or it could be unfair (Like making the size of the car the criteria).

The Free market way, where parking slots could be auctioned or sold to initial set of people, after which they can trade between each other to maximize the usage of the parking lot. (Let’s not get into liquidity of such a market).

In this specific situation, I prefer a freemaket approach, for a lot of reasons but importantly, because the shared resource is no longer free. We’d  make value based decisions on coming to office in a car or not. If somebody lives close to the office he can decide that walking would be much cheaper than paying for the parking.  Most of us make (citation needed) more rational decisions when we know the monetary value

I sense another post coming on some of ‘tragedy of commons‘ in software development.


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