"Slugging": D.C.'s old-fashioned ride-sharing system

In Washington, D.C., commuters don’t just rely on private cars or trains. They can also go “slugging” - also known as casual carpooling or dynamic ride-sharing.

The Washington Post writes about Dave LeBlanc, a defense contractor, who runs D.C.‘s only slugging Web site, Slug-Lines.com, a community forum dedicated to those who take, or offer, free rides for commuters traveling by car to and from Washington’s outer suburbs to Crystal City, Rosslyn, the Pentagon and the District. It describes itself as “not a government sponsored commuter program, but one created out of ingenuity from local citizens to solve commuter problems.”

Slugging is a Washington-area tradition dating back to the mid-1970s, when high-occupancy vehicle (HOV) lanes were constructed on interstates 95 and 395 to combat soaring gas prices. For decades, only one formal slugging location was used - in Springfield, next to Bob’s Big Boy restaurant at Bland Street and Old Keene Mill Road. But as traffic worsened across Northern Virginia, so too did the number of slugging locations. Today, there are at least 18 slug routes in the Virginia suburbs, serving thousands of daily commuters.

Slug line systems have also cropped up in traffic-clogged sections of Dallas-Fort Worth and San Francisco. A July symposium in Arlington County looked at ways to expand slugging in the D.C. area, and federal transportation officials are studying the phenomenon to see if pilot projects in other cities could help alleviate congestion. 


The HOV lanes that gave rise to slugging were a direct result of the Arab oil crisis. Governments realized they could reduce gasoline consumption and improve the environment at the same time. For sluggers, who exchange no money while sharing rides, the practice is a win-win: drivers can get where they’re going faster, commuters get a free ride.

The term itself derives from the way that prospective ride-sharers would often confuse bus drivers, who would sometimes stop for them thinking they wanted a bus ride. “Slug” was a term used for counterfeit coins, but the drivers began applying the term to the ride-sharers, who weren’t bus riders or even “real” car poolers in the usual sense of the word.

It’s awesome what communities can do to improve transit on their own, even without smart phones. How much could the addition of phones or other technologies help an established network like this one? 

photo: flickr/DAN_DC