Commuters strive to find the most efficient transportation to save time, stress and money. The Washington DC metro area commuters are no different, where commuters came up with a solution to avoid traffic congestion and leverage the High Occupancy Vehicles (HOV) lanes. “Slugging” aka “casual carpool” is the unique method of transportation for about 10000 commuters along the I-95 corridor. Slugging, in essence, is dynamic ride sharing where drivers and riders commuting in the same direction match up and ride together to comply with HOV restrictions. The best part is slugging is that it is free for the riders and drivers get to drive on HOV and avoid paying toll!
So where does the term “sluggng” come from, exactly? Slugs were referred to the fake or counterfeit bus tokens that people would try to pass as real fare, who drivers kept an eye out for. Commuter bus drivers adopted the same name for riders who was actually waiting at a bus stop along with other riders but who was hoping for a free ride. It eventually evolved to refer to this unique type of commuting called slug line.
Slugging has been a part of the DC commuting methods for around 40 years- starting in 1975, shortly after the creation of the first HOV lanes on I-395, or “The Shirley Highway.” These lanes were part of many changes that came about due to the 1970’s Arab oil embargo, which caused gas prices to soar, speed limits to be reduced, cars to become more fuel efficient, and HOV lanes to be created. All of this was done in an effort to reduce gasoline consumption, but it also had a major positive impact on the environment.
HOV lanes were made to encourage people to carpool, and the rules were strictly enforced even then. But, because these lanes made commuting so much easier, drivers began stopping at bus stops and offering anyone waiting for the bus. This gave people a new option that was much faster and reliable than the bus, and also much free.
Since then HOT lanes, which refer to toll-lanes open to high-occupancy vehicles, have also been created along the I-66, I-395 and I-95 corridors. As a result, sluglines have become even more sought after as a means of getting an easier commute. If a driver does not meet the HOV lane requirements or wants to drive through HOT lanes, then they can stop at one of the nearest sluglines and pick up passengers to help meet requirements.
Now, sluglines are operating along I-95 and I-66 corridor in the Northern Virginia and DC areas, with drivers offering free rides to people that would otherwise be spending a lot of time waiting on public transportation, and more time riding it, just to get to and from their destinations.
Slugging has a long history, and it is a method that Virginia commuters still rely heavily on today. It provides a much more time and cost effective way of getting around, and it makes a commute much faster, with gained access to the express lanes throughout the area. So, if you live in the DC area and want to give the carpool method a try, keep slugging in mind. It is fast, easy, and free- you have nothing to lose!