Late last month, Yellow Cab of Pittsburgh hosted a press conference to publicly announce its transformation into the innovative app-based transportation service zTrip Taxi. The announcement finalized the company’s aggressive $5 million rebranding campaign, which was initiated in order to compete with the ride-share startups Uber and Lyft. Among the new offerings are a crop of new drivers, an upscale black car service and a fleet of new and existing vehicles emblazoned with the zTrip logo.
zTrip president Jamie Campolongo reflects on the decision to retire Yellow Cab and the next steps the company will soon take.
It’s been a few weeks since Yellow Cab officially announced it would become zTrip Taxi. How has the transition been so far?
We’re pleased with where we are with it. We’re 150 cars into this whole new rebrand. We should be done with all the cars, either purchasing new cars or painting our late model cars, by September. The app is working great. The counts aren’t crazy, but we see 11 or 12 calls a day moving over to the app side of the business, so we think we made the right decision going more app-based.
What prompted the shift from Yellow Cab, which has been around for a long time, to zTrip?
Yellow [Cab] is 103 years old and it served the city for a long time. We knew that the business model and the industry was changing. With Uber and Lyft coming into the marketplace, it changed not so much the business as the culture of the customer, and we knew that our old style of the telephone-based cab company wasn’t going to cut it. Not that we’re going to give up on traditional service.
When you spend $5 million bucks, and you’re going to buy new cars and all this, then let’s just get on with it. Let’s get better cars, more fuel-efficient cars. Let’s go more app-based. Pittsburgh didn’t need a new fleet, it really just needed a new company.
You have a new fleet of cars, but drivers are also able to use their own cars to provide rides. Are they working in tandem?
The cab company of the future is a hybrid model. If you want to keep the traditional business, you’re going to have to do a product like [zTrip’s ride sharing app] Yellow Z, where you have personal cars. Legislation just went through, and the governor signed it last week, so we’ll be able to get people to buy into the taxi company and then we’ll have our own cars. It’s going to be different than what we’ve seen going forward.
How are you trying to compete with ride services like Uber or Lyft?
We don’t do surge pricing. We accept cash and credit. We have a now or later option that lets you book up to 365 days in advance. And we’re local. What the focus groups told us was we want authentic Pittsburgh but we want you to be as good as everybody else. And that’s our challenge. If we give a Pittsburgher the same level of service [as Lyft or Uber] and we don’t surge them, then they’ll come to us. We have customers already so we don’t have to go out and do customer acquisition. What we have to do is listen to our customers and give them what they asked for.
What has been the biggest challenge introducing this to the public?
For us, actually embracing the culture change all the way through the company has probably been the biggest challenge. There will be a lot of advertising that’s been held off just to make sure that we got through these first three weeks. Next week, you’ll see a lot of advertising and social media try and get us past the next challenge, which is people walking out and going, “Is that a cab?” Because it kind of looks like the Red Bull car.