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SLUGGING – DC’s Free Ride Share Option

When my family moved to Northern Virginia a few years ago, one of the first questions we needed answered before choosing a home is how long the commute will be to DC. It made sense to live outside the beltway to take advantage of lower housing costs and strong schools but that also would increase my husband’s daily commute. We decided we would have to live near one of the many public transportation options such as the metro, VRE or buses. Then, we heard about SLUGGING.

SLUGGING is a commuting option found in the Washington DC area were basically people carpool with complete strangers to their destinations. Why in the world would would people do this you might ask? In the DC metro area, if you have 3 riders in a car, you can access the HOV (High Occupancy Vehicle) lane without paying a toll. It creates a win/win situation in which the driver gets to work faster, the rider gets a ride, and all for free. This makes it the most efficient, cost-effective form of commuting.

How did it start?

Slugging began back in the 1970’s when HOV lanes were first adopted in order to reduce gasoline consumption and encourage less cars on the road by offering no tolls in the HOV lane. As stated on Slug-line.com, It started “ When driver did not have enough passengers for the HOV, he/she would pull up to a bus lot and offer a ride. Faced with waiting in the summer heat or winter cold for a bus that could be late or full to capacity, some commuters began opting for the car. Soon word began to spread as drivers found an easy solution to meeting the HOV requirements, and bus riders found a faster, cheaper alternative to the bus. I’m sure it took some time for the word to spread, but soon enough people knew which bus stops catered to the offers of free rides.”

How does it work?

Slugging is an organized system with designated pick-up and drop off locations. There are “slug lots” or commuter lots in various locations in the DC metro area. The riders form a line and the driver pulls up and calls out the location he/she is traveling such as “Pentagon” “L’Enfant Plaza” or “14th and New York.” The first two riders in line who are going to that location jump in and off they go. Makes perfect sense right?

Are there “Rules”?

Basically common sense presides when it comes to the etiquette or structured approach people follow when slugging. Here are some of the basics:

  • First come first served. The first person in line gets to choose front or back seat.
  • No talking. No one wants to be stuck on their commute with someone rattling on about their political views. No one wants the pressure to carry on small talk for 30 minutes with a stranger and let’s face it, sometimes we just want to enjoy a quiet ride and relax. Of course, sometimes talking is acceptable and basically you follow the lead of the driver.
  • No smoking, eating, or drinking during the ride.
  • No cell phone conversations while on the ride. We all know that person right?
  • Money is not expected. As a rider, you don’t have to offer to help pay for gas.
  • Do not ask to change the radio or thermostat in the vehicle. You are just along for the ride.

Once you get the hang of it slugging is a great option for many DC area residents. Time is money and when you can save both, it definitely is win/win. Fair warning however, if you get in the car with my slugger you better hold on tight and enjoy 70’s rock!

To find out how to participate or for more about slugging, go to http://slug-lines.com