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Tesla Uber making the rounds in the Roaring Fork Valley

Jun 21, 2016

Tesla driver Ziska Childs is trying out being an Uber driver.
Credit Elise Thatcher

  Driving for Uber can be hit or miss in the Roaring Fork Valley. Aspen Public Radio’s Elise Thatcher took a ride with a local who’s doing that with an electric twist.

Ziska Childs is comfortably seated in the driver’s seat of her sleek grey Tesla Model 1. She turns the key and there’s silence. The engine is almost noiseless; only a seatbelt warning beeps.

We’re meeting during the recent Food and Wine Classic in Aspen.

“I’ve had two requests so far,” Childs said. “There were a couple of women who decided to go and hike up Smuggler this morning and needed a ride back. And then somebody else going out to play tennis.”

Childs is expecting more calls later in the day, though two other Uber drivers handle most of the nighttime Aspen clients. On this trip, she is taking me from the Red Brick Center for the Arts in Aspen to the airport. The itinerary is her most popular request and costs more than $11 a pop.

“I started Christmas week and just been playing around to see if I could actually get some rides,” she said. “And pretty much worked from Christmas to the beginning of March. And then took a hiatus during off-season.”

Childs landed about seven to 10 rides a day during the busy winter stretch. She makes, on average, $7.50 per trip, and people often mistakenly think they shouldn’t tip Uber drivers. So she didn’t make a ton of money. And it was a challenge just getting certified to drive for Uber. It took several months and at least one trip to Denver.

During our excursion to the airport, Childs shakes her head about another barrier, which is cell phone coverage.

“I would say one out of three attempts on the phone [with] somebody requesting a ride … my phone will freeze,” she said. “And I’m unable to respond to that request. I will have punched it and said yes, I will take this person. And then the phone freezes or it goes black or I’m unable to communicate with that person. Or it shows a place other than where they are as the pick up location.”

Childs said indeed, that’s frustrating, if nothing else because she prides herself on providing good service. But driving for Uber in the Roaring Fork Valley is still worthwhile because it’s a good challenge, and Childs supports getting more electric cars on the road.

After the Food and Wine Classic, Childs said she was very busy and made a little under $500 over four days. It’s an amount she calls “OK.” Tuesday morning she was waiting for customers, hoping to snag several during the American Renewable Energy Day Summit in Snowmass Village. Childs is comfortably seated in the driver’s seat of her sleek grey Tesla Model 1. She turns the key and there’s silence. The engine is almost noiseless; only a seatbelt warning beeps.

We’re meeting during the recent Food and Wine Classic.

“I’ve had two requests so far,” Childs said. “There were a couple of women who decided to go and hike up Smuggler this morning and needed a ride back. And then somebody else going out to play tennis.”

Childs is expecting more calls later in the day, though two other Uber drivers handle most of the nighttime Aspen clients. On this trip, she is taking me from the Red Brick in Aspen to the airport. The itinerary is her most popular request and costs more than $15 a pop.

“I started Christmas week and just been playing around to see if I could actually get some rides,” she said. “And pretty much worked from Christmas to the beginning of March. And then took a hiatus during off-season.”

Childs landed about seven to 10 rides a day during the busy winter stretch. She makes on average $7.50 per trip, and people often mistakenly think they shouldn’t tip Uber drivers. So she didn’t make a ton of money. And it was a challenge just getting certified to drive for Uber. It took several months and at least one trip to Denver.

During our excursion to the airport, Childs shakes her head about another barrier, which is cell phone coverage.

“I would say one out of three attempts on the phone [with] somebody requesting a ride … my phone will freeze,” she said. “And I’m unable to respond to that request. I will have punched it and said yes, I will take this person. And then the phone freezes or it goes black, or I’m unable to communicate with that person. Or it shows a place other than where they are as the pick up location.”

Childs said indeed, that’s frustrating, if nothing else because she prides herself on providing good service. But driving for Uber in the Roaring Fork Valley is still worthwhile because it’s a good challenge, and Childs supports getting more electric cars on the road.

After the Food and Wine Classic, Childs said she was very busy and made a little under $500 a day for four days. It’s an amount she calls “OK.” On Tuesday morning she was waiting for customers, hoping to snag several during the American Renewable Energy Day Summit in Snowmass Village.