I’m a big fan of informal institutions, the creative and cooperative arrangements people and communities develop to solve problems. Elinore Ostrom recently won the Nobel Prize for her work detailing and explaining such systems around the globe.
DCist today details one such arrangement right here in our backyard, dubbed the Slug Line. An informal carpool system in the District seems to be working quite well for commuters. Less so for cops. Gross me out, DCist.
Slug drivers (sluggers?) tell WTOP that some people are not so fascinated with the slug line — specifically, police. Metropolitan Police Department Chief Cathy Lanier says there has been no change in policy, but that doesn’t necessarily mean that police aren’t doling out tickets at slug-line stops on 14th Street NW and other places. Given that the system is informal, it seems plausible that frequent ticketing (especially at $100 a pop) could very quickly have a chilling effect on slugging.
Here is a thought: What would be the problem with making slug lines official? Drivers and riders — if you will, the market — has determined the need for carpooling and even solved it. Carving out space on 14th Street NW to establish pickup and dropoff points for slug drivers sounds like a nightmare, but it’s already been taken care of. The city wouldn’t have to do much more than put up a sign — sort of like a temporary HOV parking spot zone.
Personally I dislike the idea of codifying an organic institution, because then the city would be able to regulate it. Instead, I think citizens could just petition the police department asking for a directive from the Chief to stop ticketing this particular practice. The organic, responsive and market-driven customer focus of the Slug Line is preserved, the tickets go away, and meddling officials don’t have to be involved.