slugs invade new york
December 10, 2002 10:44 PM   Subscribe

Prepare for the worst... says Mayor Mike, as NYC faces down a crippling transit strike. For starters, cars carrying fewer than four people could not enter or leave Manhattan over any bridge or through any tunnel on weekdays, 24 hours a day. Commuters wishing to get into the city by car would need to pick up strangers -- and the city will facilitate this with staging areas. Unflappable New Yorkers are at least a little flapped. But the practice of strangers hitching rides with lone drivers isn't new to NoVa: There, they are called slugs and body snatchers. [more inside]
posted by dhartung (32 comments total)
Otherwise known as casual carpooling, slugging is the practice of filling up a car to High Occupancy Vehicle lane minimums -- 3 on many NoVa (Northern Virginia) highways -- by picking up commuters, who wait at slug lines developed by habit and tradition. Most inbound slug lines are in commuter parking lots. Transportation authorities do not officially sanction slugging, but are building facilities to make it easier, even as they expand HOV-3 lanes in the region. Slugs know it sounds crazy to hop in a car you don't know, but the grass-roots solution to a problem seems to work for slugs and body-snatchers alike. The riders get to the city for free, and the drivers get there faster. Even libertarians like it. Slugging has its etiquette: in short, no talking, no playing with the heat or radio, and both say "thank you". Maps, lists, and how-tos all formulate and evangelize the procedures. Is this all too amorphous and new for Big Apple workers to handle? They may have no choice. But hey: if I know New Yorkers, they can handle the no talking rule. And they'll probably add one for no looking at each other.
posted by dhartung at 10:45 PM on December 10, 2002

Elaine's idea of every New Yorker wearing nametags doesn't sound like such a bad idea after all.
posted by Tacodog at 11:05 PM on December 10, 2002

Slugging has its etiquette: in short, no talking

What kind of recourse do we have if these people get to talking amongst themselves?

You wanna know what is so hip-happenin' hillarious (if it weren't true):

Slugs do not talk. This is not completely true, because there are times when conversation is acceptable, but normally slugs must wait for drivers to initiate it; otherwise, there is no talking. One note about this rule. Even though it may sound impolite not to initiate conversation, there are some good reasons why this rule exists. The driver (and sometimes the slug) isn’t interested in getting to know the other person. On the contrary, all that is wanted is a quiet ride home. For many riders, it’s a chance to think, sleep, or read the paper. For the driver, it may be the only chance to listen to the news or relax to his or her own music. The last thing both riders and drivers want is to feel obligated to carry on a 30-minute conversation. It’s a good rule. Now, with that being said, sometimes conversations do take place, but you’ll just have to use your own judgment as to when it’s appropriate.

No conversations of religion, politics, or sex. Enough said...

America. What's not to love about our superior etiquette?
posted by crasspastor at 11:14 PM on December 10, 2002

At Microsoft campus in Redmond, there is a highly efficient email distribution list specifically for that purpose. People who live in Seattle but work in Redmond have to travel across the lake using one of the two very overloaded bridges - which get very backed up at almost all daylight times. The bridge itself does not have an HOV lane, but the freeway leading all the way up to it does... Using an email list works really well because all information can be encoded within the message subject line. Two examples:

"+1 = HOV @ 4:30 to 65th P&R/Grnwd/N Queen Anne"
Translation: seeking one rider to qualify the car for HOV lanes (3 people). Going to 65th Street Park & Ride, Greenwood and North Queen Anne at 4:30.

+me=HOV to Downtown @ 4.30-5
Translation: if you give me a ride to downtown, we can use the HOV lane.

Anyway, there is no ridiculous "no talking" rule in effect. I've met a number of interesting people by getting rides home from them. As for no playing with the radio - well, that's common courtesy.
posted by blindcarboncopy at 11:18 PM on December 10, 2002

To qualify, even though there are two bridges across the lake, one of them is positioned to carry a lion's share of Redmond < --> Seattle traffic - that's the one I refer to as "the bridge" above.
posted by blindcarboncopy at 11:20 PM on December 10, 2002

i had never heard of this! But the terms make it seem like these people are somehow freeloaders or parasites, when in fact it's a very mutually beneficial deal. Essentially it makes the HOV lane into an anarchist's mass transit system. Of course, you're really taking your life into your own hands i suppose, and then there's the whole matter of litigious slugs with sudden whiplash to consider.
posted by condour75 at 11:23 PM on December 10, 2002

as far as the NYC strike goes, I'm just glad that they can't shut down the commuter trains. Otherwise I'd be very worried about being stuck here into Christmas break.
posted by boltman at 11:39 PM on December 10, 2002

we should just call in National Guards and tell people that they either work or their asses will be fired right away
posted by bureaustyle at 12:23 AM on December 11, 2002

Thank you, bureaustyle, that was well-thought-out and clearly rational.

boltman, I'm glad it'll work out for you, but frankly I'm screwed. My dorm's on 10th street, so if the PATH stays open I can get there, but my home in Jersey for the holiday is up in Bergen County. It'll be a commuting bitch, but the more difficult problem will be getting anything other than carry-on back home with me for the six-week winter break. I've got an internship and a job that requires me, sadly, to pack the PC and bring it home with me. The four-person rule can't apply because I specifically need seat space for my stuff.

Personally, I'm looking at staying in my dorm and hoping that if there's a strike it won't last more than a week.

That all all said, I haven't a clue what to think about this whole deal. Between the possible transit strike and the subway fare increase, I've officially accepted that New York is well on its way to competing for the lousiest public transportation system in America.
posted by XQUZYPHYR at 1:06 AM on December 11, 2002

What public transportation system in America XQUZYPHYR? Public transport is dying in America. But transport is not. How'bout we flow the airline industry 15B dollars? To keep them afloat. We, the consumer still pay the same ticket price, but UAL still gets to declare Chapter 11, and protect its assets. How far could have 15 fucking billion have gone in strengthening the public transportation infrastructure in many cities that could have used that cash infusion? (And they say we're not socialist here in the US).

we should just call in National Guards and tell people that they either work or their asses will be fired right away

If that's not sarcasm that is simply awesome.
posted by crasspastor at 1:23 AM on December 11, 2002

We, the consumer still pay the same ticket price, but UAL still gets to declare Chapter 11, and protect its assets.

What, exactly, would you have preferred?

Should management have just called it a day, fired everyone, and went home?
posted by jaek at 1:51 AM on December 11, 2002

I was living in San Francisco for the BART strike in 97 and that was awful to say the least. I'm surprised that a 'no strike' clause hasn't come out of collective bargaining, considering the imposition it puts on commuters. I think transit strikes do more harm than good, the number of riders that choose to no longer use PT will end up hurting the drivers as less ridership means possibly closing routes and ultimately losing drivers.
posted by CoolHandPuke at 4:43 AM on December 11, 2002

"Why are they doing it? Partly because they can. And partly because one of the consequences of unionization is a structural rigidity that is turning out to be disastrous in this case. Union salaries are negotiated in multi-year contracts, usually 3 or 5. Right now, the city and state are projecting deficits as far as the eye can see. They can't negotiate a generous package, even in out years, because there's no guarantee they'll be able to pay. But the union can't rely on getting a raise when things get better; they have to negotiate the raise up front...

It's a mess. Our best hope may be that unemployed New Yorkers take to hunting down transit workers and pounding some sense into them."

Ain't that the truth. Jane Galt nails it again.
posted by gd779 at 5:10 AM on December 11, 2002

we should just call in National Guards and tell people that they either work or their asses will be fired right away

This is an excellent point; the "Pink Slip Brigades," as they were known in the early 20's, are the nation's first go-to solution should there be a need for mass ass-firing at levels which would overwhelm civilian middle-management. Who doesn't recall the effectiveness with which the Tenessee Air Reserves went in and delivered round-the-clock sackings to get those reprobate Air Traffic Controllers to clean out their lockers in the early eighties?

I was damned proud of my country that day.

Re slugs, etiquette, and no talking: my father was a frequent slug/driver (he alternated) on the I-95 route in to DC -- one day he found himself in a car with fellow slug Bill Bennett, who he described as talkative and "preachy" (this from a registered Republican). I guess this particular instance of American etiquette didn't make it into The Book of Virtues.

Myself, if the transit strike comes, I'm riding an old, cheap purple girl's bike across the Manhattan bridge.
posted by BT at 5:18 AM on December 11, 2002

i will NEVER live anyplace where there isn't a winding, bumpy, secluded and beautiful two-track within a 30 minute drive.
posted by quonsar at 5:32 AM on December 11, 2002

"We, the consumer still pay the same ticket price, but UAL still gets to declare Chapter 11, and protect its assets."

What, exactly, would you have preferred?

I dunno, how about we take all the money we're going to waste killing Iraqis, and spending it to actually make a difference in our lives by investing it in some public transportation.
posted by thewittyname at 5:38 AM on December 11, 2002

"In 1960, about 43 million workers commuted to work by private vehicle. By 1990, this figure had risen to more than 101 million-an increase of 35 percent over 30 years."

Does anyone have a calculator? I'm no math whiz, but come on, this is not right.
posted by mr_crash_davis at 9:58 AM on December 11, 2002

In capitalism, wouldn't the best idea be to let the airline collapse, thereby creating a market vaccuum which will shortly be filled by smaller, more agile companies, perhaps even providing better service, eager to sieze the opportunity? Isn't that how it's supposed to work? Am I out to lunch?
posted by blue_beetle at 9:59 AM on December 11, 2002

That all all said, I haven't a clue what to think about this whole deal. Between the possible transit strike and the subway fare increase, I've officially accepted that New York is well on its way to competing for the lousiest public transportation system in America.

As far as I know, New York has the only public transportation system in America that runs at 24/7 and at a decent schedule. There are also clean new trains, a sharply reduced crime rate and a convenient way to pay the fare.

The increases suck, and the strike is going to hurt like hell, but let's not go overboard. I lived in a city with a no-frills rail system for three years, and I know how much worse the city was for it.
posted by Epenthesis at 10:02 AM on December 11, 2002

Frankly, I have no idea how all the people who take the normal, ol' MTA trains are supposed to share rides. Like I'm going to stand by the onramp to the FDR with 2000 other people, all of us with our thumbs out?

Forget about this ridesharing nonsense. How about people who live in midtown and are pining for someone to sleep on their couch (e.g., "I like this couch, but it would look so much nicer if an attorney was passed out on it right now.")?
posted by subgenius at 10:10 AM on December 11, 2002

Okay, I'm really annoyed that this is going to become one of those "hey, the solution to all our problems is to completely dissolve organized labor" debates.

The truth is, crasspastor, you're more right about the funding issue. I can't get find the link, but we had a thread here a few months ago I believe about AmTrak, where someone noted an interesting statistic: the U.S. spends less than 1% of its transportation budget on AmTrak; who knows how little they spend to subsidize any city transportation systems. European countries, on the other hand, can spend upwards of 20% of their transportation budget on public transit and the rail system.

Epenthesis, you're right. I misspoke with that statement. What I mean is that although the trains run on time, there's frequent overcrowding, no results in the idea of re-opening the much-needed 2nd Avenue line, and an upcoming 33% fare increase. The problem is the Authority giving the commuter the shaft, not the efficiency of the system itself. Ironically, the biggest benefit of the system, as you said, is that the trains and busses all run on time, something which should be credited to the transit employees... the people we're now all announcing should be run out of town on the very rails they run for us.
posted by XQUZYPHYR at 10:16 AM on December 11, 2002

Oh boy, oh boy am I excited about the impending strike. I get to ride my bike to my super corporate job! I hadn't thought about it extending into Metro north, but, heh, I can ride my bike north then.

The real tragedy is how much we subsidize roads, and how little we subsidize public transport, how people are afraid to share rides, how big cars force dependence on oil, and how dependence on oil creates war in Iraq. The big tragedy is that we are all so stuck in little ruts, and paranoid about change, that this seems like a monumental ordeal. Doesn't the RER in Paris routinely go on strike? Don't the people there all survive?

Here are the unions demands. They seem pretty reasonable to me. In America, people were treated like garbage before the union movement got going. I don't want to return to that sort of lifestyle.

And yes, blue_beetle, that would be capitalism you're talking about.

I was just going to bring up Amtrak...
posted by goneill at 10:29 AM on December 11, 2002

re: NYC

New York is actually the only city in the world with a 24/7 subway. But when I hear about city transit workers going on strike during a depression, when they should be so lucky as to have any job security at all makes me mad. Mad like when baseball threatened to strike post 9/11. That kind of mad. For them to bring up the evil spectre of the pre-labor workplace is simply absurd, as are their demands.

Full Health Benefits for All Members, With No New or Increased Payments!
Guys, just to let you know, the entire country is in a recession; NYC in particular has very bad debt. Just where does this money magically come from?

8/8/8% Wage Raises or Full Parity with Prevailing Wages, Whichever is Higher!
See first point. Why in the hell should the MTA defy the laws of fiscal gravity that the rest of the economy seems to be following?

No Transit Fare Hike or Service Reductions!
No fare hike, but keep the same services. And pay us more. Maybe I should just stand on the side of the road with a sign that says, "Hey, give me free money."

End Workfare (WEP) Slave Labor!
Does working for a temp agency equal slave labor, too? How about Wal Mart?

re: Airline bail-out.

Funny thing -- $15 billion down the toilet, and everybody still gets up-in-arms about Boston's Big Dig. With a similar price tag, at least Boston will have something good to show for it.

re: Amtrak

How in the hell can train travel be so expensive in the United States? And please no littany of how Europe has more rail lines and a history of train travel and smaller distances. That's completely bogus if you look at the excessive cost of the Northeast Corridor (Boston-NYC-Washington DC). You've got a ton of potential commuters, tons of lines, but for some reason our only choices are a slow-ass train or an expensive-ass Accela train that costs more than flying. $15 billion could buy a lot of tracks.
posted by Civil_Disobedient at 12:45 PM on December 11, 2002

I've officially accepted that New York is well on its way to competing for the lousiest public transportation system in America.
Please tell me you're kidding. I come from down in Atlanta where out "public" transit as a pile of crap. The trains only go north/south and east/west and the buses only go to the ghetto. On my spring break trips to NYC, me and my family are in awe of the amazing transit system there. I could only begin to wish we had a rail system like that here in the south.
posted by jmd82 at 1:01 PM on December 11, 2002

Health care is a right not a privilege. Our government doesn't provide it for us, so we rely on employers to do it.

Rail travel is expensive because we use our money to subsidize roads, and oil prices, and we don't subsidize railroads in this country.

NYC is giving friends of mine who live in Tribeca upwards of 15,000.00 to stay there, meanwhile they are closing fire departments.
posted by goneill at 1:17 PM on December 11, 2002

My work has just sent out an email saying that we are expected to work, strike or no strike.

So, if there is a strike, I either have to walk 6 1/4 miles each way in freezing cold weather; or, I have to buy a bike (?!) and try to remember how to ride it (while dodging angry drivers) on the gridlocked streets of Manhattan, also in freezing weather.

NYC has the best public transport of any of the cities that I've been to, but a hell of a lot of people are going to be screwed if there is a strike.
posted by witchstone at 1:46 PM on December 11, 2002

My work has just sent an e-mail saying that, while we're welcome to use bikes, they'll have to be chained outside: "Bicycles will not be allowed inside the building." So I guess you need a bike for each day (you'll have to buy a new one at the end of the day, but then you can ride it in the next morning).
posted by languagehat at 2:06 PM on December 11, 2002

Originally the Big Dig was supposed to have a large portion of funding go to public transit, but as the project was delayed and inflation and new environmental findings (and pork barrel of course) made the project's price grow they lowered the amount being spent on public transit (a real shame). Having walked the tunnels, i'm guessing on opening day the traffic will be horrendous (it's going to be a one or two year opening process to boot), which makes me wish more money had stayed on public transit (which is pretty good in boston).
As for the no bicycles at work, my suggestion: segways for all!
posted by NGnerd at 3:09 PM on December 11, 2002

jmd82- if you read my last comment you would have already seen I retracted the statement. Again, I mean that the transit authority itself is ridiculous. NYC has very efficient trains- something I credit to the transit workers.

Civil- if you had read my next-to-last post you would have seen your Amtrak answer there as well- at least the part you didn't already answer yourself. It costs an arm and a leg for train travel because the government puts jack shit into it. Amtrak fails, and the government says it's not worth it to appropraite more funding. Airlines fail and the government sends them massive bailouts. It's plain to see which industry lobbies better.
posted by XQUZYPHYR at 3:44 PM on December 11, 2002

How in the hell can train travel be so expensive in the United States?

European rail systems are heavily subsidised. The UK privatised theirs in the not too distant past, and it's not exactly been a raging success.
posted by inpHilltr8r at 5:11 PM on December 11, 2002

XQetc: You're right, my bad
posted by jmd82 at 5:24 PM on December 11, 2002

Civil_Disobedient wrote:
re: Airline bail-out.

Funny thing -- $15 billion down the toilet, and everybody still gets up-in-arms about Boston's Big Dig. With a similar price tag, at least Boston will have something good to show for it.

At least Boston will have something arbitrary to show for it. I'm in the greater Boston area, looking at the ever-ballooning Big Dig budget while they cut services left and right for actual people in need (mental retardation services, homeless shelters, public schools). And all for a prettier skyline?

The $14-16 billion or so (and growing) that Boston's spent on the Big Dig could've gone towards schools, easing the horrible housing cost situation in this city and its 30-mile radius, or *gasp* improving the city's mass-transit system as opposed to making it "easier" for singular passengers in singular vehicles to bypass the city altogether. Not that the MBTA is horrible (it's certainly better than those in Ohio's major cities, where I grew up) but we could use some new trains, expanded lines, etc.
posted by dryad at 11:17 AM on December 12, 2002

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