Are You Calling Me a Slug?

When we first moved to Northern Virginia I was a bit shocked to hear the concept of being called “a slug.”  What is a slug?  The term refers to commuters who ride, free of charge, in another person’s car to give the driver the “privilege” of using the High Occupancy Vehicle (HOV) lanes, which are available throughout the DC Metro area.   These lanes typically are much less congested and thus faster than the normal lanes.  The HOV lanes from south of the District require a minimum of 3 passengers and are in effect northbound from 6:00-9:00 am and southbound from 3:30-6:00 pm.  It’s like carpooling, on a non-personal basis.  You, the slug, are doing the driver a favor by helping him meet the minimum number of occupants required in his car to use the HOV lanes; the driver does you a favor by giving you a free ride to work, or at least close to your work, depending on the location.  It works both for morning and afternoon commutes.  Alternatively, if you prefer the convenience of having your own car, then you certainly can take on the role of driver.

There are specific slug line locations in the northern Virginia area, many of which are also located at commuter lots with public transportation.  The closest commuter lot to the Fairfax Station area is the Sydenstricker Lot, at the intersection of Sydenstricker and Hooes Roads, adjacent to the Fairfax County Parkway.   A larger one is located in the Rolling Valley Mall on Old Keene Mill Road in Burke.  There are very specific slug destinations; you may not get out wherever you want.  Some of the more popular slug lines are those to the Pentagon and Rosslyn in Virginia, and L’Enfant Plaza and several locations along 14th Street in the District.

What does it take to become a slug?  It takes the desire to share the road with other commuters and lighten the load on our heavily travelled highways.  It takes a short wait in the slug line (usually no more than for a bus) and perhaps a friendly “good morning” or “good afternoon” and by all means a “thank you.”   And it takes manners…you are, after all, a guest in someone else’s vehicle.  There are general rules to be followed, most of which are common courtesies.  Some include not talking on cell phones, not having a conversation with the driver unless it is initiated by him, no beverages without getting the driver’s permission, and certainly no personal hygiene routines (putting on makeup, fixing hair) in someone else’s car.  Slugging has been a successful concept in the Washington DC/Northern Virginia area for over 30 years.  Not only will it get you into work faster, since you will be travelling in the HOV lanes, but it can also ease the financial burden of transportation expenses, and certainly ease the stress level of commuting.  Slugging is a win-win situation for all.  Why travel at a snail’s pace when you can make better use of your time and become a slug?

Some people only hear of the “traffic nightmare” when moving to our area.  It doesn’t have to be so scary.  If you are moving here and would like more information on commuting and using this resourceful system, please call me at 703-587-5472 or email me at or  visit my website

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