Parking chair

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Two patio chairs reserving a shoveled-out street parking space in Pittsburgh's Squirrel Hill neighborhood Pittsburgh Parking Chair.jpg
Two patio chairs reserving a shoveled-out street parking space in Pittsburgh's Squirrel Hill neighborhood
A chair and a small table marking a parking space as informally reserved in Chicago 20000128 02 Chairs protecting parking place, Chicago (6897447742).jpg
A chair and a small table marking a parking space as informally reserved in Chicago

A parking chair is a chair that is used by a vehicle owner to informally mark a parking space as reserved. Other objects are also used for this purpose, including trash cans, ladders, ironing boards, and similar-sized objects. For curbside parking spaces, two or more items are normally used; for angle spaces, only one is needed. [1]


The practice of using parking chairs is common in snowy weather within urban residential areas of the United States, where vehicle owners do not wish to risk losing their vehicle's previously occupied space in its absence. Other spaces may be hard to find due to accumulation of uncleared and plowed snow, and the owner of a vehicle may have invested considerable work in clearing a parking space to free the car. This is common in areas where side streets are fully lined with parallel parked cars allowing only the center of the street to be cleared of snow, which then has the effect of pushing the snow onto the parked cars.

This practice is especially common in the Northeastern United States (for example, in Boston [2] and Pittsburgh [3] ) and the Upper Midwest and Great Lakes regions (for example, in Chicago, where it is referred to as "dibs" [4] [5] [6] ). In Pittsburgh and Chicago, the use of parking chairs is considered to be an "iconic" regional practice. [7] [4]

Use in inclement weather

In snowstorms, vehicle owners with such a need mark the space as their own that their vehicle previously occupied after digging out the heavy snow that covered the vehicle and blocked them in. [8] The legality and level of enforcement of existing laws pertaining to this practice varies by location. Generally, curbside parking spaces are public property and are available to vehicles on a first-come, first-served basis. Still, respecting these makeshift markers has been accepted by citizens as a common courtesy during snowstorms. [9]

The practice is often most effective when accompanied by the threat or actual occurrence of a "look of consternation" from a vigilant, often elderly neighbor who "keeps watch" in the vehicle owner's absence. While use is year-round, it is a particularly time-honored tradition in heavy snowfall accumulation, when a resident who "digs out" their spot on the street essentially declares ownership, [10] which often goes unchallenged by neighbors for fear of retribution. [11] [12]

The idea of the practice is that the person reserves the space from which they have freed their vehicle for future parking during the remainder of the storm and as long as snow remains on the ground. [13] It is generally a Lockean recognition that the effort of the physical exertion of digging provides an entitlement to the space where the vehicle was previously located. [14] But in some instances, spaces get reserved in this fashion even before a snowstorm starts. [15] [16]


The practice is common throughout areas of the United States susceptible to large amounts of snow and where curbside parking on residential streets is the norm, especially in the Northeast. [17]

The items used have sometimes been referred to as the Pittsburgh Parking Chair, due to their common use in Pittsburgh and its nearby suburbs. [18] While such ad hoc parking restrictions have no legal standing in the city of Pittsburgh, common and long standing community tradition supports their use. As the "parking chair" is part of the culture of the city, local police generally turn a blind eye to these impromptu markers, which under legal jurisdiction, technically qualify as "abandoned furniture." [19] [20]

Photographic evidence of the tradition has been found dating back at least to the 1950s. It is believed that the practice existed earlier, as the number of vehicles on residential streets has exceeded the number of available spaces. [18] The origin of this practice may be outside the United States, as it is also a common practice in southern Italy.


The practice has been outlawed in some places, including the city of Washington, D.C., where enforcement is strict and violators are ticketed. [21] Some places specifically prohibit the practice, with levels of enforcement that vary. Sanctions against violators may include fines and confiscation of the markers. Other places either do not enforce or make legal allowances for this activity.

In Baltimore, after the 2010 blizzards on February 5–6 and February 9–10, Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake announced that the city would not enforce an existing ban on the practice. She said that it could not be stopped, just like "people saying Hon" could not be stopped. [22]

Some places, including Pittsburgh, do not place legal sanctions against those engaging in the practice, but make clear that anyone has the right to claim an informal space that was reserved by someone else for their own vehicle, regardless of courtesy. However, it is a general practice around the city to respect the markers of others. [23] In 1994, Police in Dormont, a suburb of Pittsburgh, confiscated the markers from 200 spaces due to excessive complaints. [12] Pittsburgh retailers sell novelty "Official Parking Chairs." [7]

In Boston, the law prohibits residents from saving the spaces they clear for longer than 48 hours from the moment a snow emergency is declared to be over. [24] However, they are outright banned in certain neighborhoods of the city, such as the South End. [25]

In Aldan, Pennsylvania, the police chief confiscated all markers that were placed following the blizzards of 2010. He stated that he was enforcing a local ordinance in doing so. [26]

Though traditionally tolerated, the "dibs" practice is not legal in Chicago, where the Police Department has reported notable incident rates involving saved parking spaces. [27] On March 2, 2021, the Chicago Department of Streets and Sanitation (DSS) began removing "Dibs" objects along with household trash. [28]


Most dense residential urban streets have fewer parking spaces than residents owning vehicles. Despite this, it is rare that all residents require a parking space at the same time.[ citation needed ] When residents use parking chairs or other markers to claim spaces, they effectively reduce the parking available to everyone, by removing the efficiency that first-come, first-served public parking normally provides. [29] Furthermore, guest and work vehicles are discouraged from using available spaces when needed out of fear of retribution. Many citizens cite that despite the existing law prohibiting space savers' use after 48 hours after a declared snow emergency, residents still use them without penalty. This means that public property is being illegally claimed by an individual for their own private use.

Disorderly behavior

Even in cities where parking chairs are generally tolerated, such as Pittsburgh, local police make it clear that public street parking cannot legally be reserved. Citizens are explicitly discouraged from using objects to block parking spaces. Because parking chairs are considered abandoned furniture, they may be removed at any time. [30] It is common for municipalities to forcibly remove the offending objects from time to time.

See also

Related Research Articles

Parking meter

A parking meter is a device used to collect money in exchange for the right to park a vehicle in a particular place for a limited amount of time. Parking meters can be used by municipalities as a tool for enforcing their integrated on-street parking policy, usually related to their traffic and mobility management policies, but are also used for revenue.

Street Public thoroughfare in a built environment

A street is a public thoroughfare in a built environment. It is a public parcel of land adjoining buildings in an urban context, on which people may freely assemble, interact, and move about. A street can be as simple as a level patch of dirt, but is more often paved with a hard, durable surface such as tarmac, concrete, cobblestone or brick. Portions may also be smoothed with asphalt, embedded with rails, or otherwise prepared to accommodate non-pedestrian traffic.

Parking Act of stopping and disengaging a vehicle and usually leaving it unoccupied

Parking is the act of stopping and disengaging a vehicle and leaving it unoccupied. Parking on one or both sides of a road is often permitted, though sometimes with restrictions. Some buildings have parking facilities for use of the buildings' users. Countries and local governments have rules for design and use of parking spaces.

Parking lot Cleared area that is intended for parking vehicles

A parking lot or car park, also known as a car lot, is a cleared area that is intended for parking vehicles. Usually, the term refers to a dedicated area that has been provided with a durable or semi-durable surface. In most countries where cars are the dominant mode of transportation, parking lots are a feature of every city and suburban area. Shopping malls, sports stadiums, megachurches and similar venues often feature immense parking lots. See also multistorey car park.

Parallel parking

Parallel parking is a method of parking a vehicle parallel to the road, in line with other parked vehicles. Parallel parking usually requires initially driving slightly past the parking space, parallel to the parked vehicle in front of that space, keeping a safe distance, then followed by reversing into that space. Subsequent position adjustment may require the use of forward and reverse gears.

Valet parking

Valet parking is a parking service offered by some restaurants, stores, and other businesses. In contrast to "self-parking", where customers find a parking space on their own, customers' vehicles are parked for them by a person called a valet. This service either requires a fee to be paid by the customer or is offered free of charge by the establishment.

Double parking can refer to parking parallel to a car already parked at the curb, double parking in attended car parks and garages, multi-space parking, or taking two metered spots with one vehicle.

Parking space Designated location for parking a vehicle

A parking space is a location that is designated for parking, either paved or unpaved. It can be in a parking garage, in a parking lot or on a city street. The space may be delineated by road surface markings. The automobile fits inside the space, either by parallel parking, perpendicular parking or angled parking.


A driveway is a type of private road for local access to one or a small group of structures, and is owned and maintained by an individual or group.

Multistorey car park

A multistorey car park or parking garage, also called a multistory, parkade, parking structure, parking ramp, parking deck or indoor parking, is a building designed for car parking and where there are a number of floors or levels on which parking takes place. It is essentially an indoor, stacked car park. Parking structures may be heated if they are enclosed.

Mission Peak Public park in California, United States

Mission Peak Regional Preserve is a public park east of Fremont, California, operated by the East Bay Regional Park District. It is the northern summit on a ridge that includes Mount Allison and Monument Peak. Mission Peak has symbolic importance, and is depicted on the logo of the City of Fremont.

Illegal dumping

Illegal dumping, also called fly dumping or fly tipping (UK), is the dumping of waste illegally instead of using an authorized method such as curbside collection or using an authorized rubbish dump. It is the illegal deposit of any waste onto land, including waste dumped or tipped on a site with no license to accept waste. The United States Environmental Protection Agency developed a “profile” of the typical illegal dumper. Characteristics of offenders include local residents, construction and landscaping contractors, waste removers, scrap yard operators, and automobile and tire repair shops.

Snow emergency

A snow emergency is the active response plan when a snow storm severely impacts a city, county or town in the United States or Canada. Schools, universities, government offices, airports and public buildings may close during a snow emergency to prevent injuries during attempted travel; parking restrictions also usually go into effect to allow snowplows to clear the roads and streets effectively. The precise meaning of "snow emergency" varies depending on the issuing municipality. Snow emergencies are a common occurrence during the winter snowfall season in the Northern United States. The general public is alerted to snow emergency status via local broadcast stations, reverse 911 calls, mass text messaging services, public address systems, or lighted signals.

Parking violation

A parking violation is the act of parking a motor vehicle in a restricted place or for parking in an unauthorized manner. It is against the law virtually everywhere to park a vehicle in the middle of a highway or road; parking on one or both sides of a road, however, is commonly permitted. However, restrictions apply to such parking, and may result in an offense being committed. Such offenses are usually cited by a police officer or other government official in the form of a traffic ticket.

Disabled parking permit

A disabled parking permit, also known as a disabled badge, disabled placard, handicapped permit, handicapped placard, handicapped tag, and "Blue Badge" in the European Union, is a permit that is displayed upon parking a vehicle. It gives the operator of a vehicle permission to special privileges regarding the parking of that vehicle. These privileges include parking in a space reserved for persons with disabilities, or, in some situations, permission to park in a time-limited space for a longer time, or to park at a meter without payment.

Central Street (Evanston, Illinois)

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Shortys Lunch

Shorty's Lunch is a Washington, Pennsylvania-based hot dog lunch counter. A "local landmark," Shorty's has been owned by the Alexas family since the 1930s. It has two locations, including the main facility on West Chestnut Street in Washington, as well as in Canton. The main restaurant has old wooden booths, a dining counter, as well a large storefront, showing the grill to pedestrians.

Pay-by-plate machines are a subset of ticket machines used for regulating parking in urban areas or in parking lots. They enable customers to purchase parking time by using their license plate number. The machines print a receipt that generally displays the location, machine number, start time, expiration time, amount paid, and license plate.

The City of Ottawa's By-law and Regulatory Services Branch (BLRS) is a uniformed municipal law enforcement agency providing regulatory services to the residents and visitors of the City of Ottawa, Ontario, Canada.

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