Slug Lines in Springfield: The Unofficial, Original Ride-sharing System for Commuters


For folks living in Springfield and working in D.C., the daily commute into the city is a way of life. Fairfax County boasts a massive 95,000 commuters each day. Springfield is also home to one of the busiest highway junctions in the United States—the Springfield Interchange or “Mixing Bowl”. Needless to say, we know the daily commuter struggle.

In 2015, more than 81 percent of Fairfax County commuters drove to work rather than using public transportation, and the average commute time was about 32 minutes. Of those drivers, many use ride-sharing to take advantage of the HOV (high occupancy vehicle) lanes, which require a minimum of 3 occupants per vehicle. According to a 2016 State of the Commute Survey, the commute satisfaction rate for carpoolers was 13 percent higher than that of “drive-alone” commuters.

In recent years, apps like Uber and Lyft are capitalizing on ride-sharing to create more fuel-efficient option for urban commuters. However, Springfield is home of what may be the original organized ride-sharing system—slug lines.

History of Slug Lines in Springfield

In the 1970s, gas prices spiked, forcing commuters to find a fuel-efficient way to travel to and from work every day. The government’s response was to initiate HOV (high occupancy vehicle) lanes to encourage carpooling. In return, commuters came up with an unofficial ride-sharing system, and slug-lining was born.

Bob’s stop, in Springfield, was the first recorded slug line to Washington, D.C. and has been operating since the 1970s. Over the years, terms like “instant” or “casual” carpooling have been coined to describe this community-driven form of ride-sharing, but the term slugging is still widely used among commuters.


How Slugging Works

So how does an unofficial community ride-sharing system continue to run smoothly for more than four decades? It’s actually pretty simple.

There are designated slug lines in the surrounding suburbs of D.C., each with specific destinations like the Pentagon or Union Station. Drivers pull up to the slug line. They can either shout out their destination or display a sign that states where they are going. Riders, or slugs, that are going to that destination then enter the car in order of who arrived at the slug line first.

Slugging is mutually beneficial for both drivers and riders. Drivers are able to use the HOV lanes, which provide a faster route to work, and save gas that would otherwise be wasted in bumper-to-bumper traffic. Slugs save the gas money that they would spend on gas or public transportation.

Slug line etiquette

One of the cool parts about slugging is the unspoken list of rules that all slugs abide by. While there’s no written handbook for new slugs, we gathered a few of the important etiquette guidelines from

  1. First Come – First Served – Slugs line up in order of who arrives first. The first person in line gets the next ride and can choose the front or back seat.
  2. Don’t speak unless spoken to – Typically it’s appropriate to wait for the driver to initiate conversation. Often, people just want a quiet commute without the obligation of making small-talk.
  3. No religion, politics, or sex – For everyone’s sake, don’t bring up controversial or potentially offensive topics. Keep it cordial and polite.
  4. Don’t tip your driver – Slugging is a mutually beneficial system for both riders and drivers. Riders get a free ride to work, and drivers get to take advantage of the HOV lanes. For this reason, tips are never exchanged between slugs and drivers.
  5. Limit cell phone use – If your spouse calls to check-in, by all means answer the phone for a quick hello and update. However, avoid long, unnecessary conversations out of respect for the other slugs.
  6. No smoking or eating – Avoid activities that inconvenience the driver or other passengers.
  7. Do not make adjustments to the car – Air conditioning, radio volume, and windows are all controlled by the driver. Even if you are a bit uncomfortable, don’t make adjustments to the vehicle.
  8. No woman left behind – This rule may seem outdated, but female slugs are never left standing in the line alone. If a woman is at the end of the line, she should be offered the next ride rather than being left by herself to wait. 

Sluglines Mobile App

Over the years, stops have been added and slugging landmarks have been torn down, but the way people slug has remained the same. However, the rise of technology may revolutionize the world of slugging with the new Sluglines mobile app.

The app allows slugs to check how many riders and drivers are waiting at a slug line before arriving and check in upon arrival, creating a more streamlined way for drivers and riders to communicate with one another. They also offer an online forum where commuters can ask questions, post warnings, or post lost and found items to be reclaimed.

The Sluglines app stays true to the original form of slugging, with an elevated system of communication, making it easier than ever to ride-share into the city.

Map of Slug Lines in Springfield, VA

If you currently live in Springfield and are looking for an inexpensive, fuel-efficient alternative for commuting into the city, check out this map of slug lines currently operating in Springfield, VA.

Click on this link for the Slug Lines in Springfield Interactive Map



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