Saturday, December 19, 2009


Are HOV lanes a good idea?  They are controversial, to be sure.  Some think that they are essential to disincentivizing traffic and rewarding carpooling.  Others think that they are inefficient or infringe too much on liberty.  But for those commuters who live in areas with HOV lanes, the practical question is how to adapt. reports on the emergence of one response to HOV lanes: Slugging.

HOUSTON – Would you jump into the car of a stranger? Hundreds of Houstonians do it every morning on the way to work to save time and money.

The phenomenon called "slugging" developed in the northeast and has caught on in Houston over the last few years.

The "sluggers" park at a Metro Park and Ride lot and form a line to get into cars with drivers who are looking for a passenger so they can legally take the HOV.

Slugging seems to have originated, or has been most successful in, the DC area.  I think it would be creepy to rely on a commute in a stranger's car (plus, the story doesn't say how they get home).  But on the other hand, I kind of like the free market ordering response to regulatory restrictions--when the government creates an HOV lane, the commuters establish a new informal but effective institution, the slugging line. 

Matt Festa

Houston, Sprawl, Suburbs, Texas, Transportation | Permalink

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There are outbound slug lines in DC in the evening. 14th Street near Constitution Ave. is one popular spot.

Posted by: James Lawlor | Dec 20, 2009 10:03:41 AM

Matt -

When I was with a firm in DC my secretary used to pick up a "slug" each day at the Pentagon Metro station. It shaved considerable time off her hour + commute. I think there is reverse slugging in DC - folks who pick up slugs for the drive home. I, too, always thought it a bit strange to ride to work each morning with a different stranger. I didn't get the impression the slugs and the drivers interacted too much. I think they treated it more like a really tiny Metro car with just one other person inside.

Posted by: Jamie Baker Roskie | Dec 20, 2009 10:14:16 AM

Maybe this is more of a sociology issue than a land use problem. What's the culture of sluggers and of those who acquire them?

Posted by: Matt Festa | Dec 20, 2009 12:59:26 PM

I've been slugging, both behind the wheel and as a rider, for many years. This is a pretty accurate description of the rules:

I would only add that slugs and drivers are usually friendly and helpful to newcomers to the system. And once you've done it a few times, it becomes less weird to give rides to strangers, or take a ride from one. It's a remarkable and valuable system.

Posted by: John | Feb 24, 2010 10:58:37 AM

Very cool, John. It's its own sub-culture. Thanks for commenting.

Posted by: Jamie Baker Roskie | Mar 1, 2010 1:09:05 PM