slugging – mammoth // building nothing out of something


[Slug sites in suburban Northern Virginia, via]

Emily Badger looks at the peculiar practice of ‘slugging’, which is pretty easily Northern Virginia’s best contribution to the lexicon of infrastructural hacks:

People here have created their own transit system using their private cars. On [fourteen] corners, in Arlington and the District of Columbia, more strangers — Oliphant estimates about 10,000 of them every day — are doing the same thing: “slugging.”

Their culture exists almost nowhere else. San Francisco has a similar casual-carpooling system, and there’s a small one in Houston. But that’s it. Even in D.C., slugging exists along only one of the city’s many arteries, I-95 and 395, where the nation’s first HOV lanes were completed in 1975.

Every morning, these commuters meet in park-and-ride lots along the interstate in northern Virginia. They then ride, often in silence, without exchanging so much as first names, obeying rules of etiquette but having no formal organization. No money changes hands, although the motive is hardly altruistic. Each person benefits in pursuit of a selfish goal: For the passenger, it’s a free ride; for the driver, a pass to the HOV lane, and both get a faster trip than they would otherwise. Even society reaps rewards, as thousands of cars come off the highway.

The full article looks at a series of rather interesting issues related to this “self-sustaining casual carpool” — whether the practice could be encouraged by a government which appreciates its benefits, the series of extremely specific conditions which must be met in order for a slugging culture to emerge, the history of that emergence, and so on; read it here.

2 Responses to “slugging”

  1. cs says:

    I wouldn’t give much credit to N. Va on this one. It’s pretty much common practice in many parts of the world where a not-full car is seen as an economic liability.

    • rholmes says:

      Given that it’s an emergent behavior, this would not surprise me, but that doesn’t seem to be any reason not to give credit for the term (as I was, in describing it as a contribution to a lexicon) to Northern Virginia. (Evidence that it was used elsewhere first would be reason, but I haven’t seen that evidence — which, of course, does not mean that it doesn’t exist.)

      That said, the more slugs, the better…