Starting today Lyft and Uber drivers will no longer roam freely through the streets of Deep Ellum. A no-go zone, covering Good Latimer Expressway to Malcolm X Boulevard and Indiana Street to Commerce Avenue, has been enacted as part of a pilot program orchestrated by the city of Dallas and the Deep Ellum Foundation (DEF), as well as local ride-sharing companies.
The latter group was already well aware of the issue.
“Uber and Lyft actually both launched their Dallas locations out of Deep Ellum and so when we called and spoke with them about this, they knew immediately what we were talking about,” says Stephanie Hudiburg, executive director for DEF.
Anyone who’s driven through the neighborhood during the weekend knows the vehicular congestion that Deep Ellum’s one-lane streets are forced to bear. The new program aims to help relieve it by giving ride-share companies five specific pick-up/drop-off locations as well as a space for ride-share drivers to wait for customers, as opposed to simply circling the block.
So far, local business owners are optimistic about the plan's chances of solving the neighborhood’s traffic issues — for now at least.
“It’s an inexpensive move in the right direction. It’s a fix for now anyway,” says Frank Campagna, owner of the Kettle Gallery on Main Street. “You get one car stopped, like somebody is picking up or dropping off in front of Pecan Lodge or something like that, and all of a sudden the traffic is all the way down to Good Latimer and that’s unacceptable. People get pissed off and it’s hard enough to find a parking space as it is."
More than just causing an inconvenience, Campagna says congestion hits the bottom line, as well. "Actually, it costs the neighborhood money because it’s costing them business because (patrons are) stuck in their car trying to find a parking spot, instead of spending money in a restaurant or bar,” he says.
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The idea to cordon off ride-sharing drivers from Deep Ellum’s main thoroughfare has been discussed for several years, says Jon Hetzel, president of DEF. The pilot program is scheduled to last for the next six months, during which any kinks that arise will be worked out. Ultimately the goal is for the program to last much longer and encourage both driving or Uber-ing to the neighborhood.
Allen Falkner, owner of The Nines nightclub, which is just outside of the pilot program’s designated radius, is optimistic that just such an outcome is likely.
“Time will tell. Deep Ellum has both a traffic and parking problem, and it's only going to get worse with time,” Falkner says. “I do believe that ride-sharing is one of the keys to reducing the congestion. Management of ride-sharing makes sense."
But, Falkner adds, the true test of the idea may still be months away. "March to November will be good," he says. "However, rain and cold weather will be the true test.”
Hudiburg and Hetzel both say the process will be a living one, subject to change as issues present themselves, and merely a part of DEF’s efforts to maintain Deep Ellum. The program seems likely to outlive its initial six-month pilot period and give the neighborhood some much-needed breathing room. Reducing congestion during Deep Ellum weekends means less chance for accidents and an overall safer neighborhood.
If there's a hitch to the idea, it may not have to do with patrons of the neighborhood but with those who work there, as Campagna says. “My only concern, and I’m sure they thought about it, is the fact that after 2:30 to 3 o’clock in the morning, when waiters and bartenders come out of work, they don’t have to walk down the street with a pocketful of tips,” he says.
Drop-off and pick-up zones are located at:
Good Latimer Expressway northbound between Main and Commerce Streets
Commerce Street eastbound between Crowdus Street and Malcolm X Boulevard
Pryor Street southbound between Main and Commerce Streets
Malcolm X Boulevard northbound between Indiana and Junius Streets
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Swiss Avenue westbound between North Hawkins Street and Good Latimer Expressway
Ride-share driver staging areas are located at:
Main Street between Cesar Chavez Boulevard and Good Latimer Expressway
Commerce Street between Cesar Chavez Boulevard and Good Latimer Expressway