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Slug to Save (on Gas)

“I slug in,” a friend of mine said yesterday, to explain how she commutes to her job in Washington, D.C. from the Virginia suburb where she lives.

In the D.C. area, most people who “slug” are not hitting a baseball or the left side of someone’s face.  They are standing in lines with other commuters in designated public parking areas, waiting to catch a ride.  One at a time, drivers en route to the highway pull up to the “slug lines,” as they are called, and two “slugs” get in.  With a total of three people now in the car, the driver can use the HOV lanes and avoid excessive traffic.  In return, the passengers enjoy a cheap commute – only having to pay for the gas or public transport needed to bring them to the “slug lines” where they are picked up.  (For information on slug line locations and times of operation click here.)

Certain “slug rules” of conduct have developed in response to this situation in which perfect strangers ride together.  Having “slugged in” myself a couple of times from Woodbridge, V.A. to Washington, D.C., I received important advice from a veteran slugger beforehand.  She said, “When you get in the car, say, ‘Good morning.’  When the driver drops you off, say ‘Thank you; have a nice day’ (or ‘a nice evening’).  Otherwise, you are not allowed to talk.”  I suppose this rule protects the drivers from having to suffer blabbermouths on top of heavy gas costs.

Cost of Gas:  Complicated

So why is gasoline so expensive these days anyway? The reasons are complex.  Some experts believe it has to do with commodities traders who buy oil futures betting that oil prices will rise.  A “future” is a contract predicting the price of a commodity in the future.  If oil prices do rise, then speculators  who bought futures predicting a higher price make money.  This process leads to a self-fulfilling prophecy.  

Other factors may include the unusually high level of unrest in the Middle East, and the weak dollar.  Demand for gasoline also increases the cost.  For example, prices usually rise in the summer, when more driving is done due to summer vacations.

Save on Gas:  Simple

When we decide to “slug in,” carpool, or use mass transit, we are helping to solve many complicated problems with a few relatively simple actions.  First, we save on gas personally.  Second, buying less gas leads to reduced demand which can cause the price to fall.  This doesn’t mean you must give up your car, though.  Plenty of people slug some days and drive others.  All you have to do on any given day is decide whether you’d prefer to wait in line and keep your mouth shut, or pay for the gas while you cruise in the HOV.  

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