Because high gas prices have made it too expensive for him to take his own car to work every day, Ed Repa now waits at the corner of 19th and F streets for a complete stranger to drive him home.
Repa is one of the many commuters using the carpooling method known as the “slug line” as an alternative, cheaper means of transportation.
He and others wait outside of Mitchell Hall during rush hour, looking for commuters willing to share their cars for a ride out of the city. The slug line, sometimes called “casual carpooling,” is a citizen-created system unique to the D.C. metro area. The system has an unofficial code of conduct and rules that can be found on their Web site, along with user ratings of the different slug stops around the city.
Riders said the alternative carpooling method has grown more popular recently, as gas prices continue to rise.
Repa said he has slugged for seven years and has cut down his driving distance from 50 miles to 20 miles round-trip.
“It saves on my car and it saves money,” Repa said. “I can sit in the back and relax and not worry about traffic, which is aggravating enough.”
After 30 years, Joanne Lee is still a faithful slug rider, standing between E and F streets every few days after work waiting to hitch a free ride with a complete stranger.
Lee said she has noticed the lines getting longer since gas prices began to spike sometime in April.
“There are much less drivers so we have to wait much longer,” said Hanifa Mojda, another slugger. “In fact, a lot of the drivers are now riders. The wait time has definitely doubled, if not tripled at times.”
Even with the increasing waits, many passengers are still not deterred from using the slug system.
“The gas prices have really increased the (slug line’s) popularity,” said rider John McAndrews. “It’s harder now than it was before, but it’s still not bad considering it’s free.”
Another rider said once or twice a month a group of anxious sluggers gets together to split a cab or occasionally resorts to public transportation.
Riders said that another advantage of the system is meeting unique people and spending quality time together on the highway.
Mojda recounts the stories of one woman she met on the road who was in the middle of an affair.
“It was so hilarious, the things she was doing and the things she was getting away with,” Mojda said.
Getting in the car with a complete stranger is not without risk, however. Lee said that she read in The Washington Post about a driver who fell asleep behind the wheel with passengers because he was sick and on medication.
Lee said, “As my joke used to be when I get into cars, I’d ask if they’re on any medication – just as a joke.”