What is ‘slugging’ and why are more Va. commuters doing it?

More commuters in Virginia’s George Washington Region — also known as Planning District 16 — are “slugging,” according to a recent survey conducted by GWRideConnect, a Fredericksburg-based free ride-sharing service.

What is slugging?

The term originated in the 1970s, describing a form of carpooling that involves a driver picking up nonpaying passengers at a specific location and dropping them off at a destination that has been agreed upon in advance.

In the morning, sluggers gather at locations like park-and-ride facilities or bus stops, and drivers will pull up to the queue for the route they will follow and display or call out their drop-off point and how many passengers they can accommodate. It can be considered a hybrid form of carpooling and hitchhiking, with all parties benefiting from the arrangement, as drivers are able to access HOV lanes with additional passengers, and the riders travel for free.

More Va. ‘slugs’ on the road

On Aug. 8, surveyors counted 436 riders — or “slugs” — grabbing rides across 220 vehicles at Stafford County’s Staffordboro Park and Ride lot off Route 610.

GWRideConnect conducted a similar study last year, also at the Staffordboro Park and Ride lot on the second Tuesday of August. This year, they noted a 51% increase in the number of slugs and a 44% increase in vehicles providing rides for these slugs.

Wait time for slugs varied depending on the time of day. For example, during the early morning interval between 4:30 a.m. and 5 a.m., passengers were waiting an average of 4 minutes and 49 seconds for a car to arrive. At the peak of rush hour between 6 a.m. and 6:30 a.m., vehicles were driving up with a wait time of 33 seconds.

The number of people waiting for rides at any given point also varied based on the time of morning. According to the report, 34 slugs were counted in line at 6:45 a.m., as opposed to two later the same day at 8:30 a.m. When lines were longer, drivers picked up as many as three slugs at a time.

The survey found that the most popular destination for riders was Pentagon. Slugs were also headed to Crystal City, Rosslyn and 14th Street.

The full 2023 report is available here.

Kate Corliss

Kate Corliss is a Digital Writer/Editor for WTOP.com. She is a senior studying journalism at American University and serves as the Campus Life Editor for the student newspaper, The Eagle.

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