May 12, 2020 12:58PM

Tradeable Permits for Government Parks

By Jeffrey Miron and Erin Partin

As the weather warms and patience with stay‐​at‐​home orders wears thin, public parks and beaches are becoming the next front in the public health fight against COVID-19. One promising approach is issuing a limited number of tradeable permits, where:

“cities would issue free permits to all residents to be used for access to the most popular parks, beaches and other coveted public areas. A person could choose to sell unwanted permits, or trade them for a different kind of permit (to a different park, or for a different day, and so forth.)”

While critics of this approach might worry about exacerbating the economic divide – the financially struggling are more likely to auction their permits, thus excluding them from desirable public spaces – those fears are misplaced. Rather, the permit system gives everyone either access to highly coveted areas or the ability to sell permits to finance more critical needs. Both outcomes are preferable to keeping parks and beaches closed entirely.