They are called "slugs," named for the fake coins bus drivers used to get from sneaky passengers, but their gas savings are real enough.
"I save on average about $120, $150 a week on gas, because of the prices on gas," said "slugger" Shawn Wright. "So, it definitely helps a slug."
Slugs, or sluggers, are commuters who hitch rides into Washington, D.C., with complete strangers; sluggers get a free ride, and slug drivers get to use the fast High Occupancy Vehicle lanes. The practice originated during the gas crunch of the 1970s. Today, with gas prices in the district averaging more than $4 a gallon, more people than ever are lining up for a free ride.
"My fiance and I are trying to save some money to have a wedding in a year or so," said Leanna Ferguson, who started slugging in March. Her roundtrip slug from Woodbridge, Va., to the Pentagon is roughly 45 miles. She called gas prices "outrageous," and estimates that slugging to work saves her and her fiance about $200/month on gas and parking fees.
"It's a pretty big chunk of change we're going to put in the bank," said Ferguson.
Even long-time sluggers have noticed an increased interest.
"I see more and more people using this because it saves a lot of money, and with the hike in the oil price, it's really a god send," said slugger Sanaa Farid.
Analysts say high gas prices will be around for some time. If Americans want to save money on gas, Samantha Gross, an energy analyst at Cambridge Energy Research Associates, suggests they leave the car in the garage and find alternate ways to get to work.
"That's certainly the best way to help insulate your pocketbook from what's happening right now," said Gross.
David LeBlanc has been slugging since 1995. He wrote a research paper on slugging, and in 1999 launched a website that offers slugging information and discussion forums.
"There's more interest in slugging when gas prices are up, I get more questions via email, I see more postings on the board asking about slug lines," said LeBlanc.
In April, when gas prices in D.C. reached $5 a gallon, the number of visits to his website nearly doubled when compared with the same period a year earlier.