Sunday, January 13, 2013



I used to hitchhike a lot. So did many people. And they still do in countries like Cuba. There's a new way of officially promoting hitchhiking called slugging. I wonder if slugging may not be a useful no-cost solution to gridlock.
I talked about the joys of hitchhiking, but it wasn't until I read a story out of Calgary in the National Post that I realized that hitchhiking may flourish again in Canada.
The new planning chief in Calgary thinks it would be a good idea to set up assembly areas near High Occupancy Vehicles lanes. People would wait there and any lone driver who wants to use the HOV lanes which are banned unless he has passengers would pick them up.
Apparently there are other names for slugging, such as casual carpooling, dynamic ride sharing and spontaneous carpooling but I like slugging because it doesn't have a bureaucratic taste.
Rollin Stanley used  to work in traffic in Toronto, although I don't recall him promoting that idea here, and then worked in the States in such cities as Washington where he says 25,000 commuters now use this informal system that began with the city's HOV lanes. There is even a guide to slugging etiquette.
You know, no loud talking on cell phones, asking the driver to change the music, grilling of other riders.
The main drawback is danger from a driver who feels he has a captive victim. Stanley argues there's safety in numbers. If there are several people in a car, 99% of the danger is dissipated. It's just as safe as transit where drunks, crazies and rowdies are not usual.
This is more a job for public awareness than it is for the bureaucracy. After all, the city can't start marking waiting areas because then the officials and pols will want to have permit stickers etc after a long and expensive study by consultants which will tell the pols exactly what they want to hear.
I see from surfing the Internet that both the technique and the name of slugging has been around in various cities for several decades. I confess that despite my omnivorous reading in transportation issues of all kinds, this was all new to me. And obviously to this City Hall although it may have been proposed by some radical during some long and tedious debates on traffic where the left specialize in trying to screw the motorist.
But if Torontonians became accustomed to a car pulling up to a corner on some suburban street and the driver offering a ride to SEVERAL people waiting and waiting and waiting for the bus, slugging may become a tiny help in moving hundreds of thousands of people daily.
You may actually meet some nice people.

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