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Slugging, also known as casual carpooling, is the practice of forming ad hoc, informal carpools for purposes of commuting, essentially a variation of ride-share commuting and hitchhiking. While the practice is most common and most publicized in the congested Washington, D.C. area[1] (where it is primarily used by commuters who live in Northern Virginia), slugging is also used in San Francisco, Pittsburgh, and other U.S. cities.[2] Sluggers gather at local businesses[3] and at government-run locations, albeit not always with official sanction.[4]



In order to relieve traffic volume during the morning and evening rush hours, high-occupancy vehicle (HOV) lanes were built in many major cities to encourage carpooling and greater use of public transport. This put at a disadvantage car drivers who were unable to switch travel modes, join formal ride-sharing schemes, or informally ride-share with acquaintances, friends, or family.

These circumstances led to the creation of "slugging", a form of hitchhiking between strangers that is beneficial to both parties: drivers are able to use the HOV lane for a quicker trip, and passengers are able to travel for free (or cheaper than via other modes of travel). Ride sharing occurs ad hoc, with no need for arrangements beforehand.

David D. Friedman's The Machinery of Freedom proposed a similar system (which he referred to as "jitney transit") in the 1970s. However, his plan assumed that passengers would be expected to pay for their transit, and that security measures such as electronic identification cards (recording the identity of both driver and passenger in a database readily available to police, in the event one or both parties disappeared) would be needed in order for people to feel safe.[5]

Origin of the term

The term slug (used as both a noun and a verb) came from bus drivers who had to determine if there were genuine passengers at their stop or just people wanting a free lift, in the same way that they look out for fake coins—or "slugs"—being thrown into the fare-collection box.[6]

General practices

In practice, slugging involves the creation of free, unofficial ad hoc carpool networks, often complete with published routes and pick-up and drop-off locations. During rush hour, sluggers either drive to park and ride-like facilities, free parking lots for carpoolers, or take public transport to bus stops and metro stations with lines of sluggers. Drivers pull up to the queue for the route they will follow and either display a sign or call out the designated drop-off point they are willing to drive to and how many passengers they can take. Enough riders step forward to fill the car and the driver departs. There are a number of unofficial rules to the arrangement:[7]

  • No talking unless the driver initiates conversation.
  • No open windows unless all passengers approve.
  • No money will ever be exchanged or requested.
  • Smoking and drinking beverages is prohibited, unless the driver permits it.
  • The driver has full control of the radio; passengers may not request a station or volume change.
  • Drivers are not to pick up sluggers en route to or standing outside the line, a practice referred to as "body-snatching".

Websites have been created where sluggers can post warnings about the driving habits and behaviors of particular drivers.

See also


  • LeBlanc, David E. (1999). Slugging: The Commuting Alternative for Washington, DC. East Point, GA: Forel Pub.. ISBN 0-9673211-0-7.  


  1. ^ About Slugging
  2. ^ News Story - Slugs and Bodysnatchers
  3. ^ Clarke, Rachel (October 15, 2003). "'Slugging' to avoid Washington slog". BBC News.  
  4. ^ Falkenberg, Lisa (July 2, 2007). "Slugs avoid the slow lane". Houston Chronicle.  
  5. ^ Friedman, David D.. "99 and 44/100ths Percent Built". The Machinery of Freedom. pp. 75–77.  
  6. ^ BBC NEWS | Americas | 'Slugging' to avoid Washington slog
  7. ^ Etiquette and Rules of Slug Lines

Further reading

External links

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