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The social context of informal commuting: Slugs, strangers and structuration


  • Mote, Jonathon E.
  • Whitestone, Yuko


Despite considerable interest in the role of social interactions and social context on transportation, there have been very few attempts to explore specific cases of social interaction influencing transportation systems. This paper explores the social practice of slugging, an informal system of carpooling in the Washington, DC area. Slugging emerged in response to the establishment of Virginia's High Occupancy Vehicle (HOV) lanes in the early 1970s, as single drivers picked up riders alongside the road (slugs) in order to meet the requirements for driving in the less congested HOV lanes. Drawing on the work of sociologist Anthony Giddens, as well as the sociological insights of Georg Simmel and Stanley Milgram, we suggest that the practice of slugging highlights the processes of institutionalization and structuration. This paper details how the region's mass transportation policies and urban culture have combined to result in an institutionalized practice with particular norms and logics of behavior. We conclude that looking at specific cases where social context has affected transportation, like slugging, could provide useful insights on the impact of social context on transportation policies and systems.

Suggested Citation

  • Mote, Jonathon E. & Whitestone, Yuko, 2011. "The social context of informal commuting: Slugs, strangers and structuration," Transportation Research Part A: Policy and Practice, Elsevier, vol. 45(4), pages 258-268, May.
  • Handle: RePEc:eee:transa:v:45:y:2011:i:4:p:258-268

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    References listed on IDEAS

    1. Elenna Dugundji & Antonio Páez & Theo Arentze, 2008. "Social networks, choices, mobility, and travel," Environment and Planning B: Planning and Design, Pion Ltd, London, vol. 35(6), pages 956-960, November.
    2. Antonio Páez & Darren M Scott, 2007. "Social influence on travel behavior: a simulation example of the decision to telecommute," Environment and Planning A, Pion Ltd, London, vol. 39(3), pages 647-665, March.
    3. Antonio Páez & Darren M Scott & Erik Volz, 2008. "A discrete-choice approach to modeling social influence on individual decision making," Environment and Planning B: Planning and Design, Pion Ltd, London, vol. 35(6), pages 1055-1069, November.
    4. Jonathon E Mote & Gretchen Jordan & Jerald Hage & Yuko Whitestone, 2007. "New directions in the use of network analysis in research and product development evaluation," Research Evaluation, Oxford University Press, vol. 16(3), pages 191-203, September.
    5. Geertz, Clifford, 1978. "The Bazaar Economy: Information and Search in Peasant Marketing," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 68(2), pages 28-32, May.
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    Cited by:

    1. Nielsen, Jesper Riber & Hovmøller, Harald & Blyth, Pascale-L. & Sovacool, Benjamin K., 2015. "Of “white crows” and “cash savers:” A qualitative study of travel behavior and perceptions of ridesharing in Denmark," Transportation Research Part A: Policy and Practice, Elsevier, vol. 78(C), pages 113-123.
    2. Alexander, Matthew & Hamilton, Kathy, 2015. "A ‘placeful’ station? The community role in place making and improving hedonic value at local railway stations," Transportation Research Part A: Policy and Practice, Elsevier, vol. 82(C), pages 65-77.


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