by C. Daniel Bradford
C. Daniel Bradford is a major in the Army and works for the National Guard
Bureau in Arlington, Virginia.
Several years ago I was transferred by the military from Georgia to the
Washington, D.C., area. Because real estate is so expensive in
the area immediately adjacent to the capital, most people live
in the outlying bedroom communities. As the head of a large
household I was forced by economic necessity to move to one of
these communities. My first day driving to work gave me a
taste of how bad the traffic can be here. It took me 2 hours
to drive the 25 miles from my house in Prince William County
to my office in Arlington. My average one-way commute was
between 75 and 90 minutes.
I knew there had to be a better way. As I looked for alternate ways to get to
work I studied the different options, including Metro Bus and
Northern Virginia Rail.
As a Metro Bus rider, I would have to drive my car to a “Park & Ride”
lot purchased by tax money, and then get on a bus to
Washington, D.C. The bus is inconvenient and the one-way cost
is more than I pay for gas for a round trip in my car.
Years ago a rail line into Prince William County was proposed to alleviate the
traffic congestion on I-95. After many delays, it is now in
service, but the fare is more than the bus, and there is
serious talk of charging riders to park their cars in the rail
station lot. To top it off, the rail that carries passengers
into D.C. is not the same line that runs through D.C., so I
wouldn’t be able to directly transfer to another line.
From Intervention Comes Opportunity: The “Slug” Line
To relieve traffic congestion on I-95 the State of Virginia built a separate
set of traffic lanes that flow north in the morning and south
in the evening. Legal use of these lanes during peak hours
requires at least three people in the car. These lanes are
called HOV-3 lanes, or High Occupancy Vehicle-3 persons. These
lanes travel at a much higher average speed and are much less
congested and less prone to accidents.
Individuals who work in the metropolitan area drive to commuter lots in their
communities and park their cars. They then stand in a queue
and wait for drivers who are traveling to their general
destination. As a driver comes to the queue he announces his
destination and how many riders he needs. Riders join the
driver and they enter the HOV-3 lanes.
This system works. The riders need to get to work. The driver wants to drive
his car and needs extra riders to use the HOV-3 lanes. The
driver drops off his riders and everyone goes on his way. No
money is exchanged. Each has benefited from the voluntary
exchange: the riders (slugs) get to work and don’t have to
worry about driving or parking and the driver (slugger) gets
the use of his car and the legitimate use of the HOV-3 lanes.
In the evening the process is reversed. In the 30 years riders
have been slugging it out, there has not been a single
reported incident of violence. I find it saves me about a half
hour when I pick up slugs. I have never had to stand in the
“Slug Line” for more than ten minutes.
Several years ago I was in a store that has a parking lot that is used as a
commuter lot. I thanked the owner for allowing us to use his
parking lot as a “Slug Line.” He said that a few years
before, agents of the government bus service asked him to
refuse the use of his parking lot to the “Slug Line.” They
found it was significantly cutting into their ridership. They
wanted a more captive clientele. The store owner refused, and
the “Slug Line” in that area continues.
The “Slug Line” may not be for everybody, but it provides a market
solution a great many prefer over the government solutions to
the traffic congestion in northern Virginia.