And then society does something awesome: carpooling with strangers.
Slugging, as it's called, is when a car pulls up to a line of waiting people, calls out a destination, picks up 2 random strangers, and hops in the carpool lane. Yes, trusting complete and total strangers with your commute, your car, and your life.
Why oh why would people do this, and in DC to boot? Hint: not because carpooling is environmentally friendly. Slugging has a number of benefits for both driver and passenger, which is what's making it so popular. The driver gets a quicker commute by skipping congested highways in the much emptier carpool lanes (and in some places escapes a toll, saving actual dollars) and the passengers get a free ride that's much faster and cheaper than public transportation. Win win!
The thing that makes slugging great (or rather, the thing that made news organizations take notice) is not necessarily that it's environmentally friendly or a nice time saver for everyone, it's that it came about organically and without government assistance or encouragement. People wait in line at the big employment centers in the city and sooner or later someone going their way will come along and offer up a ride. Completely for free.
I actually found out about this months ago (like, 8 months ago), but I was reminded of it this week because I've become carless.
That's right... my trusty little Hyundai which wasn't actually so trusty has finally gone kaput. It was a slow end and I kept telling it to just do this one thing (make another drive up to my hometown, jump my roommate's car, drive a little faster because I was running late) and I'd get it fixed. I also promised it new tires and shocks. But when Kelly Bluebook said my car wasn't worth even giving me an estimate (they can do that???) I decided it was time.
And now I really wish we had slugging in San Diego. Or some form of reliable public transportation. However, I'm incredibly fortunate to have people I can depend on. My roommate just so happens to work right down the street from me and usually starts and ends around the same time I do, and she's been awesomely driving me to and from work most days. I'm also fortunate to have a self-employed boyfriend who will let me use his car on days he doesn't need it and offers to drive me on days he does need it. And, by a stroke of good luck, my boss happens to have a spare truck he isn't using (due to some bad business luck on his end) and has generously offered to let me borrow it.
I wish I lived close enough to work to ride a bike, or that my city had public transportation (there isn't even a bus route near my work). But because most of my whole country is a must-have-car place I'll be buying myself a new car pretty soon here. Which makes me a little sad. I thought my car would make it to our 10 year anniversary, and I thought (and feared) I'd have it forever.