I spent Thursday night in Deep Ellum. This is not interesting. The power went out on the block for maybe 10 minutes during Goodie Mob’s set at the Bomb Factory and everyone was really well behaved so CeeLo Green tossed fruit from the green room out into the crowd. This is not even that interesting. The interesting thing about my Thursday night was that I lived the first night of the New Deep Ellum. I am here to tell you that the streets have been taken back. The rideshares are now all corralled in staging areas, queuing up all orderly like and awaiting to be buzzed by passengers at designated locations inside the neighborhood. Everyone knows the deal and they’re happy about it.
I just lied to you. Now I’m being honest: nobody seemed to notice or care. Very little, in fact, has changed. Traffic didn’t seem too different from any other sort-of-quiet Thursday night, which is that it was moving. It was a smart night to start the program. Nobody seemed too drunk and it wasn’t very crowded. There are signs around the neighborhood now announcing the five pickup spots. I did have to walk a block to catch my Uber at the end of the night. So that’s different. My driver thought that was just where I wanted to get picked up. Mike the Uber Driver had no idea about any sort of staging situation. He says they never sent him any message. He didn’t come from a line of other drivers. It was just another call on another Thursday night. And, anyway, he blamed the congestion on everyone who’s cruising around for parking. “They should only allow Uber and Lyft to come to this area,” Mike the Uber Driver said. “Some people cannot find parking and they make it crowded.”
It is fun to imagine how that would go over. Anyway: my Lyft driver at the beginning of the night was more educated about it. He laughed when I asked if he’d follow the rule. I am not going to tell you his name, because it’s so specific that he could be identified. And he said some things that might get him a ticket down the road if he follows through. Some identifying details to prove to you that he exists: the driver is Nepalese and he lives in Irving. He says it’s not worth his time to wait in a queue of Uberers and Lyfters to pick up a quick ride to Oak Lawn. I would later be that quick ride to Oak Lawn.
“Look, if I go to pick you up it’s going to take me almost 15 minutes of waiting. I won’t get paid. And (the trip) might take me more than 30 minutes. And you know how much I’m going to make? Maybe four dollars,” the driver said. “I’m not doing it. I will drop you where you want to go now, but later on I will not come and pick you up. It’s too much headache for me. And you know what happens if no Uber driver comes here? You pay more. It will surge.”
Police say they won’t be ticketing for a month. Lyft and Uber drivers will get warned and told about the staging zones; ideally, they’ll line up along Main and Commerce streets and then get called to another zone inside the neighborhood that’s geofenced to prevent drivers from idling in it. Neither of my drivers showed any sort of fence on their app, so maybe that’ll start in a month too.
It seems like there will need to be more education in place. Or maybe it will work itself out, like it has at the airport. Some staging areas, such as the one in Globe Life Park, are confusing and frustrating and packed after games. Perhaps that will be an issue when this is truly tested this weekend.
All I know is that last night I was dropped off right in front of Adair’s. I wouldn’t have noticed anything different.