The phrase,'Unsound Transit', was coined by the Wall Street Journal to describe Seattle where,"Light Rail Madness eats billions that could otherwise be devoted to truly efficient transportation technologies." The Puget Sound's traffic congestion is a growing cancer on the region's prosperity. This website, captures news and expert opinion about ways to address the crisis. This is not a blog, but a knowledge base, which collects the best articles and presents them in a searchable format. My goal is to arm residents with knowledge so they can champion fact-based, rather than emotional, solutions.


Saturday, March 22, 2008

Slugging works well in DC; HOT lanes interfere

Slugging solution is too simple for experts
By The Hill Staff
Posted: 08/03/05 12:00 AM [ET]

If you’ve ever been crawling over the 14th Street Bridge trapped by thousands of cars — each one driven by a single frustrated individual — the thought is inescapable: there must be a better way.

And there is. It is called “slugging.”

The slugging world is little-known to us here on the Hill. It is a world of suits and briefcases and dusty parking lots and intersections where “slugs” — commuters who are seeking to share cars with other commuters — gather, morning and evening.

It is a world with its own language, its own code of courtesies, its rules, its history, its literature, its website ( and even its own doggerel poetry. It is also the simplest, cheapest and most logical hope for the wretched mess that rush hour in this city has become.

Because using all those single-driver cars to carry just one more passenger — just one — would reduce the tangle on the bridge, on I-95, on I-66 and other routes by an enormous amount. Yet it is a fragile idea, subject to fears of crime, fears of interaction with strangers. A single crime could kill it. Rush-hour toll lanes would damage it. And it is completely free and unregulated. Many think it is the only hope for a commuting city like Washington.

D.C. slugging started at a place called Bob’s, a restaurant parking lot (once Bob’s Big Boy, now Shoney’s) at the corner of Bland and Old Keene Mill roads, Springfield. The one destination was the Pentagon. The inaugural year was 1971, at the conjunction of the Arab oil embargo and the widespread acceptance of high-occupancy-vehicle (HOV) lanes in Virginia, which began in 1969.

The logic was ordinary. Drivers needed passengers to “make” the HOV cut, and slugs needed a ride. Everyone was happy.

Since then, the idea has spread, with lines of slugs appearing at 14th Street and Constitution Avenue N.W., 14th and Independence Avenue S.W. and 14th and New York Avenue N.W., to name only the oldest and most established sites.

There is a communal code among slugs. The cardinal rule is slugs do not talk. Second is no mention of religion, politics or sex if the driver does converse with his slugs. Third, no money or gifts; and fourth, no cell-phone conversations. Fifth, slugs do not leave women standing alone in the slug line. Sixth, no smoking. And there are others.

The lingo of the slug is decidedly weird. The name began because bus drivers began to notice that people at bus stops were not waiting for them, but for slugging cars. The drivers disparaged them with the same name they use for counterfeit fares — they don’t intend to pay. Other slug terms include “body snatcher,” for a driver who picks and chooses among the waiting slugs instead of taking the first in line; “caller,” a driver who yells out a destination instead of having a card on the dashboard that says, for instance, “Pentagon”; and “scraper,” slang for a car that picks up slugs.

Now the slugging world is shaken by proposals to replace HOV lanes with toll lanes. This will cut the logic out of slugging and add expense, perhaps enormous expense if new lanes must be built. All along, slugging has gone on and prospered without official help; this may well be the time for local governments to step in and facilitate this economical, ecological and practical idea. Even signage would help.

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