The Epic, Uber's new office Courtesy of KDC

Transportation

Let’s Ask Uber Drivers What They Think Of Their Overlords Coming to Deep Ellum

What’s that, Uber driver? You thought you would be bothering me on this trip? Not so fast, bucko.

Yesterday, I took a few Ubers to talk to drivers about the company’s new hub coming to Deep Ellum, and also life. The first part bombed. Nobody gave a flying taxi about the announcement from the giant tech company of highly questioned financial standing. But we did talk about some other stuff, like couples who fight on the way out to the bars, about Las Colinas Mexican joints (soon to be in Dallas), and about the city’s high crime. Should you care? Not sure! But here are the (lightly edited) transcripts anyway:

Driver: Chris
Age: 54
From: Dallas
Driving for: three weeks

Uber announced a 25-floor, 3,000-employee operation in Deep Ellum. Are you psyched?
I’m really not in this industry. If I could see myself in one of those six-figure jobs, that’d be fine. I’m pretty adaptable.

Do you know much about Uber’s business model? Is it sustainable?
It’s sustainable, but it’s easily duplicated. I don’t know if anyone else wants to get in the business other than Lyft and try and duplicate the model. I think they’ve got some shortcomings with their mapping systems. They’ve got a lot of historical data out there with drivers and the routes they take that they don’t utilize. Everything has glitches at times, but it’s like they have a fetish to put you on the freeway during rush hour. It makes no sense whatsoever.

Do you like Dallas?
I just moved back in July of last year. I’ve lived all over. I initially utilized Uber on New Year’s Eve when I lived right outside D.C., to go to Georgetown. I took car service down there. I said, well, how are we going to get back? I can’t do car service and have them wait, it’s too expensive. My girlfriend said I’ve got the Uber app, we’ll use that. I said there’s no way we’re getting any ride, anywhere, on New Year’s Eve night out of Georgetown. They were there within five minutes. It blew me away. I was sold at that point.

Have you had any crazy stories yet?
No, everybody is extremely nice. I don’t drive late at night. I’ll drive from the morning until 10 o’clock a.m., and then I’ll get back at it at like 2 or 3 o’clock until 7. So, I only drive during rush hour when people are going to the airport. Those are the better rides to get.

What do you like about it?
It’s fairly easy money if you know the city and know the places that people are going to need rides. I live downtown. I live right in Gables Republic Tower. So, as soon as I get out I’m usually pinged immediately because there’s so many hotels and offices down there.

As a lifelong Dallasite, where should people eat that they don’t know about?
They should go to Hugo’s Invitados in Las Colinas off of O’Connor, right across from the Mustang Sculpture. It’s newer. It’s high-end Mexican food. (Editor’s note: about an hour after I rode with Chris, this story came out.) Their cocktails are incredible. Their food is phenomenal. Brunch there on Saturday is a gift.

Any other general thoughts about Dallas you want to share?
I like Dallas. I was here in the early ’90s. It was really snobbish back then. It’s kind of rounded the corner and become a little bit softer.


Leshale
Age: 30
From: Shreveport, Louisiana
Driving for: almost a year

Dallas is getting 3,000 jobs and a new 25-story Uber facility. How excited should we be?
That’ll be a good opportunity for people.

As someone who spends a lot of time driving around Dallas, what could improve the city?
The roads. They’re always working on something and the app doesn’t always take you the detour way, so you have to find it yourself.

What do you like about driving?
You get to meet different people. Everybody has their own problems. You never know what someone is going through. You never know who you’ll run into.

Do you have any stories that stick out?
I had a couple that was arguing. They kept asking me to stop so they could get out. One would get out, one would get in. I’m like, OK what do y’all want to do? I’ve still got other people I’m taking care of.

This is on the side of a road? What happened?
Yeah. They both ended up getting in the car and I took them to Walmart. That wasn’t their destination but it was the closest thing. I dropped them off right there. I don’t know what happened. They were going out. They were dressed up.

They were on the way out? Not even coming back?
Yeah, they were on the way out.

Do you drive late?
Yeah. I usually do late. But I’ve been off because my kids just started school. I usually work weekends, Friday through Sunday, and night time. You get some pretty drunk people. Some don’t know where they stay. Like, ‘We’re here, but where exactly is your apartment?’ They’re like, ‘Oh, I think we passed it.’ I’m like, OK…

I had one lady who was just letting her dog lick on her. Just kept licking on her. I was trying to hurry up and get them out of my car.

Was she drunk? Or that was just her thing?
That was just her thing. She was talking to her.

Fair enough. What’s the worst place you have to drive?
On the weekend, Deep Ellum. It’s always crowded, and they block the roads off so you can’t get to your person. If I get a ride down there it’s going to be just one. It’s too congested.

Do you have to use the dropoff spots?
Yes. And then sometimes they won’t be at the dropoff spot. ‘I’m not there. I walked over here.’ So you have to find them. And then Dallas Cowboys games, too. ‘I have a jersey on.’ You and 500 other people!

So this right here on the right, that’s The Epic. That’s where Uber is going to be.
Oooh, OK. Right here next to Deep Ellum. (laughs) That’s pretty cool.

I’m thinking about coming to Uber full-time.

What else do you do?
I’m a manager at Sonic. I gave them my month notice already.

How many hours do you put in driving currently?
It just depends. I do it from about 9 at night to 3 in the morning, Friday and Saturday. And then on Sunday, I do it mid-day for a couple hours.

That’s a lot of hours. How old are your kids?
I have a 9-year-old and then my daughter, she’ll be two next week.

Have you been keeping up with some of the violence going on in the city?
Ooooh yes. (She looks over toward the pedestrian and traffic congestion in Deep Ellum) It’s even worse at nighttime. I had to stop Ubering one time, when someone got jacked and they took them to East Texas. I had to stop doing it for a while.

An Uber driver did?
Yeah, they had him at gun point to take him to East Texas.

So you decided not to do it?
Yeah, I had to stop doing it for a couple of months. Now I have my pepper spray, but I’ve never had to use it.

Anywhere around here is fine. Thanks so much for talking to me.
No problem. You have a good day.


Reyes
Age: 65
From: Lubbock
Driving for: 2.5 years

Dallas is getting 3,000 new Uber jobs and a new hub in Deep Ellum. How excited should we be?
Well man, that’d be cool. (laughs) That’d be alright.

As someone who drives around and experiences the city, what do you think the city needs?
It needs less construction. But construction means it’s growing.

Do you love Dallas?
You know what, there’s one thing that Dallas has got. It has beautiful women just about every corner you’re at. Dallas is a great place, man.

What hours do you usually drive?
I usually drive in the afternoons, evenings, until about dark. I can’t see as good as I used to. Red lights kind of bother… I wear these (sun)glasses not because I’m cool or I want to wear glasses. Just because of the red.

So I’m in an Uber with someone who can’t see red lights. Should I ask you to pull over?
(laughs) No, no, I can see them it’s just that they get real bright at night. Instead of messing with them, I stop and go home.

How long have you been in Dallas?
35 years.

How much has it changed?
About a million and a half. (laughs) My son was about to start 1st grade. He’s 42 now. You look to the sides and you see nothing but rooftops. There’s no more corn fields. There was a lot of cotton out here when we came. There ain’t no cotton, there ain’t no corn. A field or two, that’s it. Now you don’t see nothing. You look to the sides and all you see is rooftops.

Last question. What would you like to see Dallas do better?
Directing traffic. They put the policeman out there to direct the traffic out of buildings, but they just screw it up.

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