Odd–even rationing is a method of rationing in which access to some resource is restricted to half the population on any given day. In a common example, private vehicles may be allowed to drive, park, or purchase gasoline on alternating days, according to whether the last digit in their license plate is even or odd. Similarly, during a drought, houses can be restricted from using water outdoors according to the parity of the house number.
Typically a day is "odd" or "even" depending on the day of the month. An issue with this approach is that two "odd" days in a row occur whenever a month ends on an odd-numbered day. Sometimes odd or even may be based on day of the week, with Sundays excluded or included for everyone.
The efficacy of odd–even rationing is debated. In a case like gasoline, it does not actually reduce consumption, since people prevented from filling up one day will just fill up the day before, and vice versa; the total number of people in line on each day is unchanged. Some propose it has psychological effects like reducing panic buying, discouraging people from making small purchases on a daily basis, or emphasizing the shortage and further discouraging unnecessary trips. Some economists predict longer waits caused by the rationing, but these have not been observed.
Rationing access, rather than gasoline, based on number plate parity can reduce traffic congestion. In some areas, wealthier people purposely own two cars with opposite-parity number plates, to circumvent any restrictions. Vanity plates which do not contain any digits may be arbitrarily classed as odd or even.
Dealing with 0
Zero is an even number; indeed, half of the numbers in a given range end in 0, 2, 4, 6, 8 and the other half in 1, 3, 5, 7, 9, so it makes sense to include 0 with the other even digits for rationing. However, many people are unaware that zero is even, and this ignorance can cause confusion. The relevant legislation sometimes stipulates that zero is even. In fact, an odd–even restriction on driving in 1977 Paris did lead to confusion when the rules were unclear. On an odd-only day, the police avoided fining drivers whose plates ended in 0, because they did not know whether 0 was even.
U.S. gasoline rationing
Odd–even rationing was instituted in the U.S. as part of the response to the second gasoline crisis in 1979, when turbulent conditions in Iraq and Iran led to worldwide oil price increases, even though a supply shortage did not materialize in the U.S.
After Hurricane Sandy hit the eastern coast in late October 2012, gasoline became scarce and caused lines to extend miles past stations and people to wait for hours to fill cars or gasoline tanks for generators powering houses without electricity. Panic buying and fuel hoarding began to occur within days of the storm. On November 3, 2012, New Jersey governor Chris Christie issued a gas rationing system to follow the odd–even rule to ease lines in 12 counties.[where?] A few days later on November 8, New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg, along with Nassau County Executive Ed Mangano and Suffolk County Executive Steve Bellone, instituted an odd–even rationing system due to gasoline shortages from Hurricane Sandy. In New York City, such rationing lasted through November 23 due to the increased travel and gasoline demand during the Thanksgiving week, while it ended more than a week earlier in the other counties. License plates without numbers, such as vanity plates, were considered odd.
- Editorials on file (1979) Volume 10, Part 1
- Odd Even Gasoline Rationing by Jim Johnston on November 14, 2012
- Odd scheme Odd Scheme by Don Boudreaux on November 12, 2012
- Why Gas Lines Are Like Bank Runs & Why Odd/Even Gas Rationing Actually Works by Barry Ritholtz – November 13th, 2012, 7:15AM
- ET Fuel Rationing Is Hard to Gauge by CARL BIALIK November 16, 2012, 6:53 p.m.
- November 17, 2012, 3:46 AM Does Odd–Even Rationing Work? Carl Bialik
- Viegas, José M. (October 2001). "Making urban road pricing acceptable and effective: searching for quality and equity in urban mobility". Transport Policy 8 (4): 289–294. doi:10.1016/S0967-070X(01)00024-5.
- For example, a 1980 Maryland law specifies, "(a) On even numbered calendar dates gasoline shall only be purchased by operators of vehicles bearing personalized registration plates containing no numbers and registration plates with the last digit ending in an even number. This shall not include ham radio operator plates. Zero is an even number; (b) On odd numbered calendar dates …" Partial quotation taken from Google book search, accessed on 2008-02-22.
- Arsham, Hossein (January 2002). "Zero in Four Dimensions: Historical, Psychological, Cultural, and Logical Perspectives". The Pantaneto Forum. Retrieved 2007-09-24. The quote is attributed to the heute broadcast of October 1, 1977. Arsham's account is repeated in Crumpacker, Bunny (2007). Perfect Figures: The Lore of Numbers and How We Learned to Count. Macmillan. p. 165. ISBN 0-312-36005-3.
- Jane Sneddon Little (Sept./Oct. 2000). "Recent Developments in U.S. Energy Markets: A Background Note". New England Economic Review. pp. 3–18.
- Charisse Jones (Nov 2, 2012). "Christie orders gas rationing in 12 N.J. counties". USA Today.
- "New York City, Long Island to impose gas rationing". WABC-TV. Nov 8, 2012.
- "Odd–Even Gas Rationing System To End Saturday In NYC". WCBS-TV. Nov 23, 2012.