The social context of informal commuting: Slugs, strangers and structuration
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.
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Volume (Year): 45 (2011)
Issue (Month): 4 (May)
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