AS ANXIETIES mount over post-snowstorm parking in Boston, the city should take a lesson from David Ivaska, a South Boston native who’s earned himself the nickname “Captain Cone.”
It’s a regular frustration of Boston winters: the territorial types who shovel out a street parking spot and then try to reserve it indefinitely by putting traffic cones, lawn chairs, or ironing boards in it. Unfortunately, the practice has spread to the point that people are reserving spots they never actually shoveled out. Official city policy has been to tolerate space savers for 48 hours, but enforcement has been spotty.
In response, Ivaska has taken it upon himself to remove space savers en masse. Those who regularly search half-empty streets for an unclaimed space will find it easy to admire Ivaska’s efforts to clear away the cones, barrels, and chairs that appear after even a small dusting of snow.
Unfortunately, some drivers returning to find their space savers gone may assume that it was moved by whoever is now parked there. The implicit enforcement mechanism is the threat of vandalism: If you park, knowingly or otherwise, in a spot that someone else shoveled out, you may find your fenders keyed, your tires slashed, or worse. If many more Bostonians routinely followed Ivaska’s lead — and word got around that street-parking Samaritans were at work — space-saving residents wouldn’t take revenge on innocent vehicles.
The issue, ideally, wouldn’t be left up to volunteers. The city’s Public Works Department ought to make regular, timely runs through the neighborhoods collecting space savers. If residents came to realize that the city would soon remove any cones or chairs left out in violation of the rules, fewer and fewer would persist in the habit.
Meanwhile, on the local level, saved-space erasers like Captain Cone might want to develop a flashy flier, stamp, or sticker that could be attached to a chair or cone or nearby telephone poll, noting that spaces on the street had been cleared courtesy of a neighborhood activist. That would let space-hoarders know that the newly parked weren’t to blame. It might even encourage other grateful residents to join the cause.