I started reading/exploring the concept of slugging/carpooling when I moved from Alexandria to Fairfax and had to rethink my entire commute. I was still commuting to DC but this time, the starting point was Fairfax, which was further west and which meant more traffic, even during the early hours of 6:30 – 7:00 am. I tried to circumvent this by driving my hybrid SUV to work. I applied for the clean fuel plates from the DMV, so I could drive on 66 without the HOV restrictions. However, on my drive to work every day, I noticed traffic at the Washington Blvd merge point onto 66 came to a complete standstill which got me wondering, “Isn’t the whole purpose of 66 is to keep traffic moving smoothly to DC?” Even with police patrolling, I saw a lot of violators (single drivers in a non-hybrid car). I was frustrated just like any other commuter from VA to DC, but given the limited access points VA residents have into DC, there was nothing we could do.
One day, I heard a commercial for commuter connections on the radio and decided to try it out. I spent many weeks trying to connect with people, but given my schedule (7:45am – 3:00pm), didn’t have much success. It was on one of my drives to DC that I heard about the implementation of toll on 66. I didn’t really give it much thought but as the Dec 4th deadline started coming close and close, I started to research my options and that’s when I heard about the I-66 sluglines page on FaceBook. I instantly sent a request and got access to the page. I started combing through the comments, looking for potential sluggers and started reaching out to people using FB chat. I did connect with a few people but none of them could give me a confirmation by Dec 4th and so that day I ended up taking the new bus (699 connector from Government Center to DC). Later in the day, I heard back from Bill (who would eventually become the first of my regular riders), one of the people I had reached out to earlier. He was ready to become a rider and we agreed to give it a try. So the very next day, Dec 5th, I met Bill at the slugline sign on the south side of Vienna metro. The trip to DC was a breeze and I could not have been happier.
I then started looking for more riders but since it was the onset of winter and the slugline had just picked up, I knew that just going and standing at the sign to wait for riders would be futile. So I took the earlier approach; reaching out to riders personally. Two of my main reasons in looking for additional riders were backups (in case Bill could not ride) and logistics (I didn’t really need to go out of my way to pick up riders since the Vienna metro exit was right off 66 and so it wasn’t a bother). It was on one such interaction, I connected with Justin (who would become my second regular rider). At this point, even though I had two regular riders, I didn’t mind taking a third one; because like I mentioned above, it was the ease and location of the pickup point. It was on a typical morning, when I was picking up Bill that I saw Tina (who would become my third regular rider) standing near the slugline sign. I asked her if she wanted to be a “slugger” and she agreed.
To make things easy, I found all three people on the FB page for I-66 and created a separate FB chat. This was so I could let them know every evening about my arrival time at the station and also inform them in case I got delayed. This process worked very smoothly and even to this day, its working great.
Sometime in January, another rider; Saule reached out to me. She asked me if I had I had space and wanted to become a regular. I told her that I have 3 regular riders and that if anyone of them ever weren’t riding, I would let her know first thing. This has worked great because there have been times where all 3 of my regular riders have dropped out and so Saule and other people at the slugline sign had replaced them.
As of March 2018, it’s been about 3+ months that I have been slugging and I have nothing but praise for the whole system. Sure, I could have whined and cried about the tolls but it was either that or finding a workaround. Slugging is concept that’s been working for about 40 years now which has a little bit of flexibility on both sides (drivers and riders) that helps keeps slugging strong.