Hitchhiking Is Apparently One More Thing Millennials Have Killed
Ester Bloom

Fun and True Story:

For more than 40 years, the greater DC metro area has used hitchhiking as an accepted and common way to commute to work. This practice is referred to as “slugging” or “the Slug Line”. (If you watched House of Cards and were wondering where the name of the fictitious political blog came from, Now You Know.)

The way it works is as follows:

  • People drive/walk/bike to, and park at, a Park-and-Ride (bus parking lot), underused strip mall, whatever. The only hard-and-fast criteria is that it have frequent bus service and plentiful parking.
  • Other people who want to (or must) drive to work, and want to use the express lanes (which require anywhere from 2–4 occupants in the vehicle), drive up to the line of commuters, roll down their window, and call out where they work and how many they can take. (e.g. “Two for the Pentagon!”, “Three for Commerce!”, “One for Crystal City!”, “Five for L’Enfant!”, “Two for Reagan!” (The Reagan Executive Office Building, not the airport.)
  • The first people in line that the destination works for hop in and off they go!
  • The reverse happens in the evening, except people call out the name of the destination lot. (Fun Fact: The names take a bit of learning; e.g. one destination is “Bob’s”, referring to a Bob’s Big Boy restaurant that closed while I was still in Elementary School thirty years ago.)
  • If you can’t get a ride and need to get to work, you simply hop on the next appropriate bus.

At no time does money change hands. (Unless, of course, you take the bus.)

It is, in fact, hitchhiking, and quite probably illegal. But it’s used by people in all walks of life, from Janitors to Generals. And in all that time, I think there’s been precisely one crime that has taken place. The system is 100% unofficial, (though they are obviously tolerated) and none of the lines are government created.

It works so well in the DC area because the number of large destinations people work at is fairly limited; they are not spread out all over the city.

I kind of annoys me that when a system like this exists, Uber, et al, have the cheek to call themselves “car sharing”, when they are usually nothing of the sort; being just an app-enabled livery service. (It’s only recently that you could even actually share a ride.)

Other cities have their own slug lines, but I believe the DC system is the oldest.

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