How We Commute: Slugging

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Some choose to bike, some go by way of land paddle, and others simply walk. But there’s another breed of Washingtonians that prefer to take a back seat when it comes to commuting: slugs. Every morning and afternoon during rush hour, lines of commuters gather at designated locations to pile into strangers’ cars for free rides, no strings attached. The trade-off? Drivers offering their cars get to merge into the HOV lanes thanks to the sidewalk strangers they pick up — thus, shortening their commute as well.

Slugging was popularized in DC in the ’70s when High-Occupancy Vehicle lanes were introduced in Virginia. People would wait at bus stops, but rather than hopping on mass transit, crafty commuters would swoop in, grab extra passengers, and ride the fast lane into the city. Over time, bus drivers began to refer to them as “counterfeit bus-riders” or “slugs” (a reference to slug coins- not the slimy mollusc). We went slugging with David LeBlanc, creator of Slug-Lines.com and author of Slugging: The Commuting Alternative For Washington DC (currently out of print), to get a first hand experience.