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Federal Highway Administration Research and Technology
Coordinating, Developing, and Delivering Highway Transportation Innovations

This report is an archived publication and may contain dated technical, contact, and link information
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Publication Number:  FHWA-HRT-13-053    Date:  May 2013
Publication Number: FHWA-HRT-13-053
Date: May 2013


Exploratory Advanced Research Program

Casual Carpooling Focus Group Study


This discussion guide has been tailored to the Washington, DC, region to account for unique characteristics related to or affecting casual carpooling in this region. Furthermore, this discussion guide contains a section about a pilot real-time ridesharing program not discussed in the other two regions.

Introduction 5 minutes


Section A: Knowledge leading to decision to participate 10 minutes
  1. Define slugging. How did you first hear/learn about slugging? Probe on source(s) of initial information about system, word-of-mouth, seeing it in action, and employer’s role.

  2. What was it about slugging that most intrigued you, or intrigued you enough to consider it as a means of commuting? Probe on economic/financial, environmental, other personal values.

    • What effect have gas prices had on your decisions?

  3. Did you have any initial concerns about it? What were they and what did you do to resolve them?

  4. Do you consider slugging to be carpooling? Why or why not?

    • Why do you slug instead of using a traditional carpool?

  5. How does slugging compare, both good and bad, to other transportation options that are available to you?


Section B: Current behavior 30 minutes
  1. How long have you been participating in slugging?

    • Are you a rider or a driver?

    • In which location(s) do you participate and why did you choose that (those)?

    • We recognize that you all participate in slugging for work. Have you ever used it or considered using it at a time other than for work (e.g., commuting to/from school or for some other purpose)? If yes, tell me about it.

  2. Tell me about your first experience.

    • Did you do any preparation work (email/talk to someone/Internet search) before you participated for the first time?

    • What did your family members, colleagues, or friends have to say about it when you first started slugging? Over time, have their opinions changed?

  3. How often do you typically participate?

    • Is it always as (refer to 1a) a driver or rider?

    • Do you participate every day or just certain days?

    • What kinds of considerations or decisions do you make when you decide to use slugging on a given day? Probe on participation preferences—weather, vehicle type, safety, commute time.

    • On days that you participate in slugging, are there any changes to your routine to support your participation? Probe on whether they have changed work hours, altered routes, used a park-and-ride lot, used public transit part of the way, etc.

  4. What are the factors that drive or detract from personal participation?

    • To what extent is or is not safety an issue? Probe on gender, age, and other sociodemographic differences?

    • What do you consider when you decide to accept a rider/ride? Probe on whether the riders/drivers are always someone new or whether they look for someone in particular.

      • Would you deviate from your regular route to meet the needs of a rider/driver?

      • Do you typically sit in a specific seat?

    • Do you ever decide not to accept or pass on a rider/ride? Why or why not? Probe on whether they look for certain characteristics of the rider/ride, vehicle type, or number of passengers, blue/white collar, etc.

      • To what extent do you “get to know” riders and drivers and make decisions on whether to ride with one based on past experience/hearsay?

    • What makes a ride/rider a “good one” and a “bad one”? Probe on conversation making, hygiene, dirty/clean vehicles, offer of payment, etc.

    • Do you feel as part of a unique or special “community”? If yes, explain how? Do you think others would find this an attractive facet of slugging?


Section C: System guidelines or improvements 15 minutes


Section D: Fort Belvoir Group only 10 minutes
  1. Hand out a sheet of paper with the following text and ask participants to read and then answer the two questions. Do not talk. Watch and record reactions as they read the sheet and answer the questions.

    The Northern Virginia Regional Commission is administering a Real-time Ridesharing Pilot along the I-95/395 corridor from Fredericksburg, VA, to Washington, DC. The project goal is to provide commuters with a new, innovative transportation option that will help to bring relief from traffic congestion while reducing the number of cars on the road and getting into and out of the gates. This will allow commuters to save gas money, and wear and tear on their vehicles.

    The project will pilot a breakthrough real-time ridesharing software system that matches drivers and riders in real time as they travel, so you can rideshare whenever you want, from wherever you are. With the real-time ridesharing smartphone app, commuters will be able to easily create carpools in real time, providing a marketplace for drivers to offer up their empty seats to other commuters. Riders will share the costs of the journey through an automated electronic transaction payment based on mileage. For example, each rider will pay the driver $0.20 per mile for the first 10 miles, and $0.10 per mile after. So the riders sharing a 20-mile commute to Fort Belvoir would pay approximately $3.80.

    Once a match is made, the pilot will manage the journey from pickup to dropoff, providing real-time status updates, automated security features, and electronic micro-payments that allow riders and drivers to share the cost of a journey.

    Question 1: What is your first reaction or thought about what you just read?

    Question 2: If offered, do you think you would use the real-time ridesharing smartphone app? Explain why or why not.

  2. What did you write down as your first reactions to the pilot project? Ask each person what they wrote and to explain why they felt that way.

  3. Ask for a show of hands of who would and would not use the system. Ask each group why or why not.

  4. There will likely be a fee for using the app. Write down on your sheet of paper what you think a fair cost to use the system would be? Discuss what they wrote.

  5. Finally, there will be an incentive offered to those who use the system regularly. Examples are, use the application 10 times and get a ride for free. What do you think would be a good incentive? Probe those who said they would not use the application whether having such an incentive might change their minds.


Section E: Wrap-Up 5 or 10 minutes

The purpose of today’s group was to explore your opinions on slugging, learn from your experience about slugging and how it operates in the region, and see if you have any ideas about how FHWA and others can create more awareness of slugging or provide tools to improve your experience. Do you have any final comments or suggestions?

The sponsor of this research from FHWA is also going to come into the room now and for anyone who has questions for him about slugging, feel free to stay on.

Thank for time and sign for incentives.


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