My Day as a Slug: January23, 2014

Last week, I went to Washington DC to attend the Transportation Research Board annual meeting and present my paper about Lawrence OnBoard.  While I was there, I had the chance to try out the famous Slug-Lines.  For those of you who don’t know, slugging is a way for drivers who want to access the fast carpool lane to pick up a couple of riders to fill the HOV3 quota without needing to arrange ahead of time.  Riders stand in line at designated park and ride lots outside the Beltway and wait for drivers to pick them up.  It’s completely self-organized, grassroots and historically free of mayhem.  What struck me most about slugging was how completely matter-of-fact everyone was about it.  The closest comparison would be standing in a check-out lane at the store.  I stood in a line behind 8 other people.  Drivers pulled up and announced their destinations and riders piled in two at a time and off they went.  I waited perhaps 3 minutes before a smartly dressed woman pulled up in a clean, shiny car and announced “2 for L’Enfant Plaza”.  That was my destination, so I hopped the front seat and a fellow in his 50s with briefcase and topcoat jumped in the back.  We blew  past 4 lanes of bumper-to-bumper traffic, and in 20 minutes I was at the L’Enfant Plaza Metro.  On the way, I asked the other two about slugging.  The man had been doing it for 15 years and the woman for 5, and in all that time they had never ridden together.  So these two absolute strangers had immediate and complete trust in each other because they slug.  How astonishing and how beautiful!

Lawrence OnBoard was well received, especially among the professionals working in shared mobility-carsharing, ridesharing, bike sharing, van pools and buses.  The folks working in small cities and rural areas were the most interested.  I discovered that several other communities are experimenting with variations on roadside ridesharing.  The most notable is a project in Berkeley, CA.  I may have to hitch out to California and check it out.

See you on the road!