Kalai Kandasamy is a Sr. Network Engineer for NetCentrics Corporation, addressing cyber risks and solving complex challenges for the federal government. But his problem solving skills aren’t limited to cybersecurity. He’s also trying to solve transportation problems in the DMV.
More than 10,000 Northern Virginia residents commute to the Pentagon, Rosslyn, and DC area via I-95 Monday through Friday. And despite highway improvements in recent years – extending the I-95 HOV lanes to Stafford, and adding Express Lanes on I-66 – for many, getting to work either means sitting in traffic, or paying a substantial fare.
Realizing the need for an alternative, Kalai decided to help his fellow commuters, and developed a website, https://sluglines.com. Slugging, a term used to describe a unique form of commuting in the DMV, is a form of ride-sharing where the driver provides transportation to other riders at no cost, and as a result, can use designated HOV or Express Lanes. In short, slugging is an informal carpool with mutual benefits for both the driver and passengers – it’s a cheaper and faster way to commute to and from work.
The first recorded slug line started in 1970s, but as the population has grown and the highways have changed, the needs of “slugs” have also changed. Recognizing the need, Kalai started a Facebook page as a means to reach more potential riders and help the slug line evolve.
“It’s the best way to commute and my goal is to simply help people get as close as possible to their office, as quickly as possible,” said Kalai. “Slugging minimizes the cost and time and it maximizes the convenience. It’s more efficient all around.”
Prior to standing up the website and Facebook page, commuters lacked a way of communicating with one another. Through those resources, as well as the newly-release mobile app (https://sluglines.com/app), slugs can now check in to the app and announce their availability to drivers in real-time. The app primarily uses the Google Cloud Platform, leveraging the same security model used by Google applications, and will soon include additional real-time communication features to further improve coordination.
“The user experience aspect is huge,” Kalai said. “Slugs are unique – we’re a community of strangers after a common goal. The app has taken communication to the next level, and helped overcome some of the hurdles of the DC commute.”
The Pentagon, L’Enfant, Bob’s in Springfield, and the Horner Road commuter lot in Woodbridge are major hubs for slugs, and Kalai hopes that the enhanced communication through the mobile app and social media will help distribute slugs to additional hubs and increase participation, primarily along the I-66 corridor. With current fares at $44 one way on I-66, Kalai hopes to reach 1,000 dedicated riders for the I-66 corridor by April 2018.