D.C seeks commuter input to help find new 'slug' pickup sites for ride-sharers

By Derek Kravitz
Washington Post Staff Writer
Friday, August 27, 2010

The District is asking commuters to help find new sites for slug ride-sharing lines after vehicles stopping along the heavily traveled 14th Street corridor near the National Mall have been ticketed by police.

Slugging, or instant carpooling, is a Washington area commuting tradition dating from the 1970s in which drivers wanting to use high-occupancy vehicle (HOV) lanes stop to pick up passengers (the "slugs") on their way into Arlington, the District or other destinations. The District Department of Transportation said it will evaluate responses to a commuter survey. Details on how the survey will be conducted were unclear. A pilot test of potential pickup sites is tentatively scheduled for October.

"We understand there is a real need for people to utilize these ride shares, however we need to make sure people are also safe and that traffic can flow in an orderly fashion," DDOT Director Gabe Klein said.

Officials said traffic engineers and safety experts will identify locations for slug lines that minimize traffic problems and provide "a safer waiting environment." The new sites would include signage to clearly identify ride-share locations.

There are at least 18 slug lines in Northern Virginia, serving thousands of daily commuters. Along 14th Street, seven lines have formed, including at the intersections with New York, Constitution and Independence avenues, according to the slug line Web site, Slug-Lines.com. This summer, passengers have complained about D.C. police handing out tickets in no-stopping zones on 14th Street.

U.S. Rep. Gerald E. Connolly (D-Va.) sent a letter to D.C. officials in early July, noting that many Prince William County residents who lack access to Metrorail rely on slugging to get into the city via interstates 95 and 395.

"Slugging is a win-win-win situation," Connolly said. "It is a win for commuters, who get to work more quickly than if they were driving alone. It is a win for the region and the District of Columbia because it reduces the number of cars entering the city. And it is a win for all residents of the region because slugging reduces vehicle miles traveled and the associated air pollution."

David B. Billy, political director of the International Association of Fire Fighters, said that as he drove home about 4:15 p.m. Aug. 13 from his Washington office to Springfield, he stopped in a slug line near the Washington Monument to pick up two riders so he could use the HOV lanes on I-395. After stopping in the right-hand lane to pick up the passengers, Billy received a $100 ticket for illegally stopping in an evening rush-hour zone.

"If they can put bicycle lanes on Pennsylvania Avenue, they can set up slug spots to help reduce traffic and pollution for us," said Billy, who has used slug lines since moving to Springfield in 2003.

D.C. police say they have not targeted slug-line pickup sites but have issued citations for vehicles blocking rush-hour lanes.

"We have no problem with the slug lines and want to work with the motorists who engage in this impromptu arrangement, but officers cannot ignore vehicles creating a hazard, or blocking lanes of traffic," D.C. Police Chief Cathy L. Lanier said in a statement. "We are working with DDOT and the motorists to find a solution to serve everyone."

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