Slugging to Work
May 22, 2008 1:17 PM   Subscribe

In a few areas, like Washington, D.C. and the East Bay, lone motorists can pick up anonymous "slugs" to take advantage of carpool lanes. Ettiquete and rules have evolved to keep the peace between you and your anonymous carpooler.
posted by jaimev (36 comments total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
In the East Bay, it's called "casual carpool." Slugging is only used in DC, far as I can tell.
posted by kittyprecious at 1:23 PM on May 22, 2008

Uh for safety crazed Mmerica, I tought every stranger was a potential threat. Well excuse me while I enjoy a ride on public transportation where the worst that can happen is a couple bombs here and there and a derailment.
posted by elpapacito at 1:29 PM on May 22, 2008

So you were listening to NPR this morning too, huh?
posted by Doohickie at 1:34 PM on May 22, 2008 [1 favorite]

elpapacito -

I agree with your sentiments about 'Merican paranoia, but the fact is, a lot of people shoot each other over here.
posted by greenie2600 at 1:37 PM on May 22, 2008

No stabbing!
posted by Artw at 1:39 PM on May 22, 2008

In my day we'd just stand at the side of the road with our thumbs out.

Now get off my lawn.
posted by ZenMasterThis at 1:44 PM on May 22, 2008

Welcome to the point where 'merican paranoia and 'merican penny-wise-pound-foolishness cross. As long as those two folks I pick up don't torture me to death I will cut like thirty minutes off my commute.

Now, if I did use public transit that would just be letting all these other fuckers go faster on my highways.
posted by abulafa at 1:45 PM on May 22, 2008

abulafa: not to mention adding an extra hour to your commute if you work someplace BART doesn't go.
posted by small_ruminant at 1:47 PM on May 22, 2008

This has been going on over twenty years. I can recall seeing the line of commuters lined up outside the old movie theatre I worked at in the summers, about 2 blocks from 395. It was pretty impressively efficient.
posted by docpops at 1:49 PM on May 22, 2008

I think the enforced silence, if it's really as described, is disturbingly American.
posted by These Premises Are Alarmed at 1:50 PM on May 22, 2008 [2 favorites]

In DC, slugging goes back to the 70s. While we 'Mericans were paranoid about a great many things in the 70s, picking up hitchhikers was not so strange.

Also the slugging happens among business commuters. While yes, a psychopath could choose to dress and act like a typical businessperson to exact carnage upon drivers, that's a bit overmuch prep unless you have a serious beef with slugs.
posted by desuetude at 1:54 PM on May 22, 2008

I dunno, man. I like the idea of enforced silence—few things are more painful, or have less point, than small talk.
posted by greenie2600 at 2:00 PM on May 22, 2008

The line does not leave a woman standing alone. Call it chivalry or simply thoughtfulness towards the safety of others, but this rule has certainly helped many women feel safer.

That's a new one on me - I slugged a few dozen times from Springfield and was left alone at least half of those times.

Also, the enforced silence is positively blissful.
posted by timetoevolve at 2:06 PM on May 22, 2008

Marv Jenner was a hitch-hiker from the old goddam school. He'd thumbed it around the country before that there John Keruac hippie made it cool, and for damn sure after. He'd had adventures he could tell in every sort of company - sex parties with college kids, rides with car chasers and chasees, explosions and weddings. He still stopped by to visit folks he'd met on the road when he passed through their towns, and there were offramps he would never stand on again out of pure superstition and memory. He'd been everywhere, man.

So when he came down through the Bay area for the first time in a few decades after a long trip through other planes and times, he was surprised to see they had a special place set up to do the hitching, but it seemed like a nice idea.

Until they started in with their rules and their etiquette. Things went poorly from there, and ended with a four car pileup in the middle of the bridge, a Mini Cooper seat thrown into the bay, and Marv running up 101 heading for the hills.
posted by freebird at 2:14 PM on May 22, 2008 [1 favorite]

I've done the casual carpool thing a few times, from Marin though, not the East Bay. It works very nicely. I have been stuck in a car with someone listening to right wing talk radio. As noted in the rules, asking for a change of station isn't allowed and being a good passenger I resisted my urge to groan aloud.

One of my coworkers who casual carpools from the East Bay everyday says he had a woman lean out of the car she had just gotten into with all men and say to the others still waiting to remember her face. That being said, this system is surprisingly safe and efficient.
posted by shoesietart at 2:16 PM on May 22, 2008

I've never heard of the term "slug" being used for casual carpooling, but yeah, it's a decent way to get across the bridge for nothing. I've done it although I don't choose it as my preferred method of transportation.

I don't know where that "etiquette" link came from, but it seems to have been written by someone angry and uptight. Casual carpooling is pretty straightforward: hang around for your ride, get in, wait quietly until you get to Fremont, get out. Usually the driver has some kind of talk radio going instead of blissful silence, and that sucks sucks but hey, you can't really bitch if you're getting a free ride. It saves the driver a few bucks in tolls and the passengers a couple of bucks for the discomfort and indignity of the bus.

Are there really places where there's no casual carpool? Do the diamond lanes just go completely unused there?
posted by majick at 2:19 PM on May 22, 2008

I don't have time to shoot you, I HAVE TO GET TO WORK!
posted by anthill at 2:22 PM on May 22, 2008 [1 favorite]

Driver: How you doing?
Slugger: Fine thanks.
Driver: I'm going to listen to Morning Edition, if you don't mind.
Slugger: Sure.
Driver: Cool! they're doing a story on slugging!

Also a double, I'm sure.
posted by sourwookie at 2:36 PM on May 22, 2008

I don't have time to shoot you, I HAVE TO GET TO WORK!
Damn straight! I need money to finance my car that brings my to an 8 hour (at very best) work)and back home to sit on my ass watching porn on the net (at very best) while my car sits idle 80% of the time. In order to use it more I will drive it to megamall that keeps the price low, cause I now need more money for the car, but my jobs gets outsourced to china, so now I have to hop to another state to get a job and drive some more. I'm so glad I am now driving 3 hours a day, I get to use my car.

I'd shoot you for good, but I need the bullet for that damn car.
posted by elpapacito at 2:39 PM on May 22, 2008

I think the enforced silence, if it's really as described, is disturbingly American.

Really? Nobody talks on the Tube either.
posted by mkb at 2:40 PM on May 22, 2008

A previous slugging post, including a link to
posted by mkb at 2:44 PM on May 22, 2008

Good point mkb, when I first moved to London, it took me a while to realise the wild eyed looks in my fellow tubers faces was because I was a chatty colonial who was yet to learn the rules.
posted by Samuel Farrow at 2:46 PM on May 22, 2008

Interesting... I was not aware of this..

However, in seeing a hitchhiker today I thought...yep, we're going to see more of that as more and more people can't afford gas.....
posted by HuronBob at 2:49 PM on May 22, 2008

I slug occasionaly in Houston on the Park & Ride circuit. I've ridden in silent cars and I've ridden in chit-chat cars. The driver sets the rules. Women seem to be chattier than men (duh!), although not necessarily to the passengers (i.e., cell phone).
posted by Standeck at 3:21 PM on May 22, 2008

Just get a motorcycle already! Federal law; you are allowed to use HOV lanes if you're on a motorcycle. Plus, it's the right thing to do, y'know, for the environment and stuff.
posted by Eideteker at 3:56 PM on May 22, 2008

I think it's a safe bet that that list of rules and etiquette was written by a driver and not a passenger.
posted by Dave Faris at 4:18 PM on May 22, 2008

Thanks, Eideteker! I ride a motorcycle and I didn't know that. I just wish that the tolls here in Florida were less for motorcycles. I'm sure I put less wear and tear on the road than the H1s that pay the same as me.
posted by vsync at 4:59 PM on May 22, 2008

I wish regular carpooling had enforced silence. I'd be saving like $150/month in gas.
posted by DU at 5:09 PM on May 22, 2008

majick: "Are there really places where there's no casual carpool? Do the diamond lanes just go completely unused there?"

There's only an HOV lane going north out of the city where I live. I've never heard of "slugging" here on that lane. Any other direction, you're stuck in the same two lanes that everyone else uses.
posted by octothorpe at 5:52 PM on May 22, 2008

I'm very interested to see how this plays out in LA. I would imagine someone, somewhere (the Valley maybe?) casual carpools, but I've never seen it. Or heard of it, before now.

So there: a place that may not have casual carpools (but the lanes are still *used* the asses who swerve into them even though they're driving solo)
posted by librarylis at 1:27 AM on May 23, 2008

There's only an HOV lane going north out of the city where I live.

Just for the sake of information, there are two major thoroughfares that are HOV going in and out of DC on work days in the Commonwealth of Virginia.

One is a nine lane highway (395/95), south of the District, that has an extra set of three lanes that alternate direction based on the time of day. (In the morning, the traffic flows northward, and in the evening, the traffic flows southward.) Three lanes northbound, three lanes southbound, and three lanes alternating direction for HOV-3 (occupants) / motorcycles / hybrid vehicles.

There's also a six lane highway west of the District (66), and depending on the time of day, one whole set of lanes (three), inbound or outbound, are devoted to HOV-2.

According to VDOT, the HOV lanes cut the commute time in half, where a regular commute on 395 takes 58 minutes, an HOV commute takes only 27 minutes. And a normal commute on 66 takes 69 minutes, an HOV commute takes 41 minutes.

The fine for violating HOV restrictions escalates, and expire after 5 years. The first violation costs a driver $125; the second, $250; the third, $500 and three points on your license; and the fourth, $1000, and another 3 points. (You lose your license after you get 6 points.)
posted by Dave Faris at 4:43 AM on May 23, 2008

(Oh, and you can't swerve into the lanes... they're distinct sets of roads, that you can only occasionally enter into and off of, and state troopers monitor violators like lions, waiting to pounce on gazelles.)

Also, there's been talk of adding restricted lanes on the Beltway that encircles the District, open only to people who are willing to pay a stiff toll, regardless of the number of people in their cars.
posted by Dave Faris at 4:47 AM on May 23, 2008

A similar informal system existed when I was a student at the University of Minnesota. Several of the choice student parking lots were closer and cheaper than the main lots, but required you to have at least two occupants in the car.

So there were several places you could pick up people walking to campus so you'd be eligible for the carpool lot (on the days I drove in, I could almost always grab someone walking down University Avenue and shave several blocks off of their drive)
posted by kaszeta at 7:27 AM on May 23, 2008

Just don't pick up this guy.
posted by rokusan at 9:01 AM on May 23, 2008

Plus, it's the right thing to do, y'know, for the environment and stuff.

Sadly, on our 80s-technology carbureted KLRs, we may be getting significant better mileage, but the emissions are terrible.

The same is true of most/all bikes as I understand it. EFI machines are probably better, but I don't think any have catalytic converters.
posted by flaterik at 12:59 PM on May 23, 2008

NPR Slugging Podcast
posted by so_ at 1:21 PM on May 23, 2008

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