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Slug-Lines.com - Slugging and Slug Lines Information For Washington DC
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Slug-Lines.com - Slugging and Slug Lines Information For Washington DC
  Newspaper and Radio Stories
 8 Dec 2002

Good deal for drivers, passengers
By Dana Tofig
The Atlanta Journal-Constitution, 

See at: http://www.accessatlanta.com/ajc/opinion/1202/08transit1.html

Bob Hugman is a slug -- and proud of it. "I'm a slug probably 98 percent of the time," the Northern Virginia resident says. 

Being a slug in the Washington area is not an insult. It means you are part of one of the most innovative commuting efforts in the country. 

Each morning, commuters show up at designated parking lots scattered around the suburbs. Drivers, who need at least two passengers to use Virginia's HOV lanes, pick up people who are going their way and drop them off near their jobs. The system works in reverse in the afternoon.

According to slug-lines.com, the slugging Web site, the casual car pooling started about 30 years ago when Washington's first HOV lanes opened. It has grown organically over the years -- no government involvement. It's just commuters looking to avoid the traffic crunch. There are 25 pickup points in the morning and 12 in the afternoon. The system accommodates several thousand commuters a day. 

Perhaps the main reason slugging works is that Virginia's HOV lanes on I-95 are set off from regular traffic with walls and gates. "They enforce the HOV lane south of D.C.," said David LeBlanc, Web master for slug-lines.com.

Slug-lines.com says "slug" originated with bus drivers, who used to catch riders trying to pay fares with metal slugs rather than coins. Drivers, the site says, would get annoyed when they pulled up to a line of people and were waved off because the people were waiting for free rides in cars. So they called these counterfeit riders "slugs."

At Potomac Mills shopping center in Prince William County, passengers wait in three lines, depending on their destination -- Pentagon, the District or other employment centers, such as Crystal City or Rosslyn. Drivers pull up to the proper line and announce their specific destination, and riders hop in.

They observe a slugging etiquette. Passengers should wait for the driver to initiate conversation; the topics of religion, politics or sex are off-limits. No money is exchanged because the driver and passenger need each other equally. There is no smoking or eating, and the driver controls the radio and the air conditioning.

LeBlanc said he cannot recall any crime on a slug line. Pam Hansen, a Dale City slugger, said she's never had a problem. 

"If you don't like the car, you don't get in it," says Hansen. "You learn who the bad drivers are." 

With that, a driver pulls up with a shout: "Crystal City!" Hansen gets in, smiles "Good morning" and slugs her way to work. 

-- Dana Tofig
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