Commute for free -- become a slug


NPR reported

recently on a phenomenon that I, not living in an area with high-occupancy vehicle lanes on the highways, knew nothing about. Apparently, for many years an informal protocol has developed to match willing commuters with drivers who need a passenger in order to qualify to use the diamond lanes.

Driving the HOV lane can chop hours off of weekly commutes in towns like Washington, D.C., so drivers are motivated to find a warm body to ride shotgun. Commuters in need of a lift, termed affectionately 'slugs', line up in the morning in parking lots of outlying communities, locations that have become known as meeting sites. Drivers pull in, announce their destination, and a slug that shares that destination and who has courteously waiting for his/her turn, hops in for a free ride into town.

Once in the car, both rider and driver usually follow a customary etiquette. The slug may not fiddle with car controls. Names are not exchanged, and conversation is limited to topics unlikely to offend either. The slug is not supposed to eat, talk on his/her cell, or otherwise annoy the driver.

I'm fascinated by this process, an unexpected (to me) response to the HOV lane concept. Certainly, no such ride-sharing seems to work in my area, where totally democracy (and sometimes anarchy) rules the freeways. Undoubtedly, ride sharing will increase as gas prices cripple personal budgets. I wonder if this might be a model for mating drivers and willing passengers?

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