Wednesday 28 May 2008

HOV lanes grow slugs in DC since 1971

You may remember I blogged about the petrol price craziness back in January. That was nothing. Now, every single day there are radio, TV, and print stories complaining about high petrol prices. So much so, that news networks are struggling to find ways to make filming a petrol pump look interesting.

The prices have risen dramatically - when we arrived in September 2007 we were paying about $US2.70/gallon, now we are paying about $US4.00/gallon. Of course it doesn't worry us too much because we have probably the second smallest car in America.

It seems this latest set of rises was finally enough to force concerted action in America. Some (most?) of the reactions are stupid - a summer petrol tax holiday (aka vote buying), stopping strategic petrol stockpiling, "gas price guarantees" from car manufacturers for their gas guzzling vehicles, and some good - massive demand and pressure on manufacturers for hybrid and highly efficient vehicles.

I'm still yet to hear a story about the government having the foresight to spend more money on public transport or people moving closer to work.

I also just found out about "slugging" or "casual carpooling", which is an interesting symptom of the carpool lanes in DC that has been going since 1971!!! This is how it works:

The system of slugging is quite simple. A car needing additional passengers to meet the required 3-person high occupancy vehicle (HOV) minimum pulls up to one of the known slug lines. The driver usually positions the car so that the slugs are on the passenger side. The driver either displays a sign with the destination or simply lowers the passenger window, to call out the destination, such as "Pentagon," "L’Enfant Plaza," or "14th & New York." The slugs first in line for that particular destination then hop into the car, normally confirming the destination, and off they go.

Interesting that people would be scared for their lives hitch-hiking around the US, and yet they are happy to pick up random strangers to save a few minutes on their commute!

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