Colorado Uber, Lyft drivers are sleeping in cars to make ends meet

Posted at 10:00 PM, Mar 01, 2017
and last updated 2017-03-02 01:06:37-05

DENVER -- Jaysun Baez spends more nights sleeping in his car in Denver than he does in his own bed in Colorado Springs.

"The car becomes more of your second home," said Baez, who has been driving for Lyft and Uber for more than three years. "You just get used to it after a while. We learn to adapt."

At the end of their shifts, most Uber and Lyft drivers go home to sleep, but in the holding lot at Denver International Airport, there is a growing number who curl up in their cars to get a few hours of shut eye before starting all over again.

"I found this beautiful memory foam pillow, and that has made all the difference," said Baez, who reclines his front seat and bundles up against the Colorado cold. "Right now, it's 23 degrees outside, but you run the car all night long, and just leave the heat on."

A recent BloombergTechnology report showed drivers such as Baez are part of a national trend -- a "new version" of immigration.

"A lot of us drive into Denver to make the money, whereas if we stay in the cities that we live in the money is just not available," said Crystina Page, a single mother of three teenagers who also commutes from her home in Colorado Springs to drive in downtown Denver.

"I carry these [blankets] with me because it's Colorado. You never know when the weather is going to change," said Page, who started renting a car through Lyft last month.

She needed 70 rides a week in Denver for the rental fee to be waived, so she was sleeping in her backseat four nights a week until she saved enough to get her own car.

And she still plans to sleep in her car in Denver on the weekends for more rides and better rates.

"After working a 12-hour shift, driving in circles in downtown Denver, I don't want to drive two hours to come home and two hours back the next morning," said Page.

An Uber spokesman said they encourage drivers to take a break whenever they are tired, and he pointed out that more than 50 percent of Uber drivers work less than 10 hours a week.

Lyft, in a statement, reported that only "a very small fraction of drivers" have told them they choose to rest in their cars.       

Some drivers have complained about Uber lowering fares, arguing that if Uber paid them as employees, they would not have to resort to sleeping in their cars.

The company has been plagued with bad PR lately, including allegations of sexual harrassment, dashcam video of the CEO berating a driver and a lawsuit filed by a self-driving car company founded by Google.

But Page and Baez weren't complaining about where they sleep to make ends meet.

"My kids still need to eat and have a roof over their head," said Page, who said she is also applying to drive for Uber. "Some nights, though, it's really hard. I've cried a lot of tears in the backseat, but I try to make sure I'm happy and smiling in the front seat for passengers. I'm doing what I need to do so my family can make it."

Baez said he rarely gets more than four hours of sleep at a time, but he is also a single father, trying to support his 12-year-old daughter.

He said the flexibility is worth the sacrifice.

"You can do this full-time and make a good living. I don't have dumb bosses or meetings, but there are sacrifices that come with being able to make the money to facilitate doing that, like sleeping in your car and doing the ridiculous hours that we do," he said.


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