ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. (KRQE) – Albuquerque’s oldest cab company is making a big change to try to take back some of the business that’s shifted to ride-sharing services over the last few years.
The old “Yellow-Checker Cab” company was recently bought out by a new owner that’s renamed the taxi business “zTrip.”
The new owners are positioning themselves as a so-called “better choice” by combing elements of traditional taxicab services with those of ride-share services.
“We like to bill ourselves as the perfect hybrid between a rideshare vehicle and a taxi cab,” said Bill George, President and CEO of zTrip.
Over the last few months, George’s company has been buying up old taxi businesses across the U.S., including Yellow-Checker Cab in Albuquerque. So far, zTrip is now in 19 U.S. cities across states like Colorado, Texas, Kansas and Florida.
“We saw what the fleets were in Albuquerque,” said George. “There was a lack of an investment, there was a lack of investment in technology in the vehicles.”
An old fleet of cars is just one of the reasons some people say they’ve turned away from traditional cab services in recent years.
“They’re a little sketchy, smelly,” Albuquerque resident Jennifer told KRQE News 13 Wednesday when asked about her thoughts on old cab services.
Others have complained about the comfort and price of old cabs.
“It’s just charging you while you’re at a red light, so the meters going up,” said Jessica of old-style cab service.
Meanwhile, ride-sharing services like Uber and Lyft have taken off in popularity in the metro area. Those services hire local drivers to use their own private cars to give rides. With Uber and Lyft, customers can only get a ride through their use of a smartphone app.
CEO Bill George says zTrip is different than ride sharing.
“We want to be a better choice from the safety aspect, from the insurance aspect,” said George.
The company says it screens and hires all zTrip drivers. The company also owns the entire fleet of cars used for rides, including handicap accessible vehicles.
To compete with on-demand ride-sharing services, George says zTrip also has an app that works just like Uber or Lyft’s. George says their pricing is comparable too, with no surge pricing as is commonly seen with ride-sharing services.
People can also call zTrip directly to book a ride, or hail a driver from the side of the street.
“Here’s what a taxicab does really well, here’s what a rideshare does really well, what if we bridged that gap and put both of them together?” said George.
Albuquerque is zTrip’s first service area in New Mexico, but the company says it’s still looking to expand.
By: Chris McKee
Posted: Dec 13, 2018 10:25 PM MST
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ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. — A new taxi service named zTrip has acquired Yellow Cab’s New Mexico license.
According to a news release from zTrip, the company has launched a fleet of 20 sedans and 20 minivans in Albuquerque.
Bill George, CEO of WHC Worldwide/zTrip, said five more wheelchair accessible vehicles will be available in the next year.
“Albuquerque’s size was a big factor in our decision to move here,” George said in a phone interview. “We saw the market and felt it was under served.”
George said zTrip is a hybrid between a taxi and ride share service, with the safety of having a licensed, insured driver.
“We also offer a set fare that doesn’t change at 2 a.m. or 2 p.m., good weather or bad,” he said.
The zTrip app service allows immediate or future bookings, with the option of picking the driver. Cutomers can pay with cash, credit card or through the app.
George declined to say how much zTrip paid for Yellow Cab.
BY ABQJOURNAL NEWS STAFF
Wednesday, December 12th, 2018 at 4:09pm
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Albuquerque, NM, December 07, 2018 –(PR.com)– Albuquerque’s Iconic Yellow Cab Sold – zTrip Launches New Taxi Fleet. zTrip announces fleet launch in Albuquerque – providing the safety of a taxi with the ease of on-demand service.
zTrip, a new innovative taxi service, has acquired Yellow Cab’s New Mexico taxicab operating authority. zTrip will launch with a new fleet of 40 sedans and minivans in the Albuquerque market today.
“Our mission is to use mobility to enhance the lives of our customers, driver partners and employees,” said Bill George, President of zTrip. zTrip combines the trust and safety of a taxi service, with the ease and speed of an on-demand car service, providing benefits not available from any other competing “Car Hailing” service in the area. Albuquerque’s residents and visitors now have a safe and comfortable alternative to traditional taxicabs and the new rideshare apps.
“We are excited to introduce zTrip to the Albuquerque market. zTrip was designed to combine the best features of the new e-hailing transportation services, along with the safety and security of licensed and inspected taxicabs. We are committed to providing every traveler with a new level of personal transportation service,” said George.
zTrip stands out from the competition, providing features like:
· The zTrip app allows you to book trips for now or later.
· No surge pricing: The same low price every time, whether it’s 2 p.m. or 2 a.m.
· Professional and licensed drivers with full fingerprint background checks: You don’t have to worry about who is driving you home.
· 24/7 live customer service: You can talk to a live support team member anytime
· zTrip also provides hotels, hospitals, bars, restaurants and other high-volume users with a “zTrip Butler” that allows customers to summon a cab with the press of a single button.
In January 2019 zTrip will also launch an ADA option for a wheelchair taxi service at the same low price. “This is a real game changer for the disabled community in the Albuquerque area,” said, George. “We are proud to be the only “ride app” to include wheelchair transportation in its service offerings.
Additional features of zTrip include:
· Choose if you want to pay cash or credit card or through the app – No other service provides this flexibility.
· Freedom to choose your favorite driver – Get reliable service the first time, and every time
· Choose different vehicle types. Sedan or Van
To celebrate zTrip’s launch in Albuquerque, new users can download the promo code ABQzTrip for $10 in zTrip ride credits through December 31st. Download the zTrip app in the Apple iTunes or Google Play stores.
zTrip launched in 2016 and is now available in 19 U.S. cities with a fleet of more than 3,500 vehicles. WHC Worldwide is the zTrip affiliate in Colorado, Florida, Nebraska, and New Mexico.
Read the full story here: https://www.pr.com/press-release/771745
Press Release Distributed by PR.com
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Jamie Campolongo is trying to close the gap between 11 seconds and two seconds.
That nine-second difference is an eternity in today’s world when potential customers are in a hurry to get a ride.
That was an unshakable fact that Mr. Campolongo, who has been president of Pittsburgh Transportation Group for 25 years, realized three years ago — not long after Uber and Lyft dramatically rolled into Pittsburgh.
The San Francisco-based ride-hailing apps suddenly could offer anyone a ride within minutes, which eroded taxi cabs’ market share while flouting state regulations that had granted Yellow Cab of Pittsburgh monopolistic authority.
In response, Mr. Campolongo did something remarkable for an industry infuriated by the newcomers’ audacity: He joined forces with the ride-hailing companies to legalize their operations.
“We knew Uber was going to get what they wanted,” Mr. Campolongo said in a recent interview in his office in Chateau. Instead of fighting his new rivals, “What we said was: How about a ‘me, too?’”
The result was passage of legislation, signed by the governor last year, that amended Pennsylvania transportation rules to permit ride-hailing companies. At the same time, the taxi company underwent a brand overhaul, developing its own mobile app and trading in the mustard-yellow, checkered boxy cabs for silver Toyotas, Hyundais, Kias and Dodges.
The old and stale Yellow Cab of Pittsburgh became hip and sleek zTrip — a ride-hail company informed by a 100 years of experience, but embracing a digital reality.
In some ways, zTrip is a mix of both. The company still owns a fleet, which today totals about 290 cars that can be leased on a daily, weekly or weekend basis by drivers. Though drivers pay for leases, the company covers insurance costs and maintenance.
An additional 100 to 150 people drive for the company using their own vehicles under the YellowZ banner, not unlike Uber and Lyft drivers. That group is designed to grow and shrink with demand.
The move to shift the business strategy appears to have paid off. Though he declined to provide specifics, Mr. Campolongo held up a chart showing sales up 30 percent from last year and fully recovering from declines when Uber and Lyft moved in.
In addition, trip completions are way up and complaints are way down. The silver zTrip cars can now be spotted across the city and are ubiquitous at major events. Mr. Campolongo plans to increase the fleet by 21 percent next year.
In the process, zTrip has had to work a little harder, and in different ways, to manage its workforce.
About half of drivers for zTrip today were with the company three years ago — meaning about half are new to working for a cab company. The company modified driver training to put more weight on customer service and small business management tips now that they are competing against other companies.
Tim Knight got the keys to his first zTrip vehicle in September 2016. He had never driven for a taxi company, but he did have experience in customer service and sales.
It took him less than a month to get a strategy sorted out: He would drive from 5 a.m. to 11 a.m., take a break from 11 a.m. until 2 p.m., then go back out for afternoon rush hour.
“Some of it was being in the right place in the right time,” he acknowledged.
Mr. Knight had no problem establishing a base of customers who would reach out to him for a ride. Soon enough, he was asked to be a mentor to other drivers. In April, he was hired on as the market expansion manager — a full-time position that brings on new zTrip drivers and serves as their liaison with the company.
Now that the job comes with the ease of technology and a cooler brand, recruiting is easier.
“Taxi cab drivers used to be the job of last resort,” Mr. Campolongo said. While Yellow Cab of Pittsburgh struggled with a shortage of cab drivers, zTrip can’t expand its fleet quick enough. “We have probably 85 people backlogged, waiting to get into training.”
On the customer side, Mr. Campolongo is candid about the issues that riders have had with taxi cabs over the years — problems that aided the rise of ride-hailing.
Users of ride-hail apps often cite horror stories of being stranded places or missing flights because taxi cabs failed to show. Stereotypes of cabs as musty, and even dangerous, pervaded the industry.
With the mobile app, Mr. Campolongo claims, better service has accompanied the cleaner image.
“I think people generally feel a little more comfortable in a taxi cab, but they were really uncomfortable with the service levels and response time,” he said. “Now that we’ve closed the gap in technology and comfort and the type of car we’re in, people are coming back.”
He read down a list of partnerships that zTrip, with deep roots and long-standing partnerships with other Pittsburgh businesses, has developed. The company even provides between 70 and 80 rides a day for students from nine local school districts and some private schools.
In many cities, the cab industry resisted ride-hailing and any change in regulations. The national taxi cab trade association has waged an ongoing campaign called “Who’s Driving You” that tallies criminal incidents allegedly involving Uber and Lyft drivers and asks for people to submit complaints.
Mike Pinckard, president of the 1,100-member Taxicab, Limousine & Paratransit Association, noted companies were put in a tough position by being forced to play by the rules while Uber and Lyft broke them.
But now that many states are adopting regulations governing ride-hailing, a small number of the taxi group’s more than 1,000 members are reaching out to capture that market.
Mr. Pinckard’s own company, Phoenix, Ariz.-based Total Transit, launched a ride-hailing alternative in January 2016 that currently gives 200,000 trips per month — or about 60 percent of the number of rides formerly performed by traditional taxis there.
“We believe that all of the key components are there to compete and win,” he said.
The challenge can be balancing the swelling demand for rides and ensuring drivers get enough trips to make money. In Pittsburgh, Mr. Campolongo said he is aiming to increase the zTrip fleet to 350 cars in 2018.
Cab drivers traditionally relied on steady trips to and from the airport, sometimes neglecting other areas
While those rides could bring in $35 and take an hour round-trip, the technology now gives drivers more pings throughout the region. Shorter rides can add up and usually mean more money for drivers, Mr. Campolongo said.
That’s where the nine-second gap comes in. The new version of zTrip’s app will send ride requests directly to drivers, without first sending the request through a central dispatch system.
Customers using the app to call a ride have no patience for even that brief delay.
“Before our technology can even tell them how long the ride will take to get there, they cancel,” Mr. Campolongo said. “There’s no patience. You’re off to the competitor.”
“Now, if we could just do something about that 2-star rating” on Google Reviews, he said with a laugh.
Daniel Moore: firstname.lastname@example.org, 412-263-2743 and Twitter @PGdanielmoore.
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In Baltimore, taxis are getting into the ride-hailing app game.
Transdev, the international company that owns Yellow Checker Cab of Baltimore, is launching its zTrip app in the city on Thursday.
The app, which is available for iOS and Android, was beta tested by the company in Kansas City over the last year. By the spring, the company expects to have it available in 18 cities, said Bill George, president of the taxicab business in Transdev’s On Demand Division.
In Baltimore, the app has been rolling in soft-launch mode this week, with about 200 rides ordered between Tuesday and Wednesday. “Drivers are thrilled with it,” George said.
A look at the zTrip app. (Courtesy image)
At this point, it’s obvious that the cab service is entering the same app space where services like Uber and Lyft have made big inroads in recent years. After entering in Baltimore, the ridesharing services officially got on the books in Maryland last year with a new — and separate from taxi — regulatory framework adopted by the state legislature. This week, Lyft announced an expansion into Annapolis and Baltimore surburbs, and Uber added more Maryland cities last October.
Ridesharing companies haven’t been shy about their intentions to disrupt the taxi industry in general, with its entrenched regulations, and the many individual difficulties getting a ride we’ve had over the years. It would be easy to look at the app as an attempt to catch up by imitation. But given all the flack taxi companies take and the fact that we started the New Year with word of an $1,100 Uber ride on New Year’s Eve, it’s only fair to hear George out.
Riders, he said, “can still call for a cab, hail a cab, text for one or order on our website. This is just another way to order the vehicle.”
Like ridesharing, zTrip has driver tracking and a ratings system, and allows riders to pay with a credit card through the app (though cash is still an option). Transdev also introduced a new computer dispatch system in Baltimore that’s syncing with the app and other forms of ordering. But George said zTrip has a couple of features that are designed to make it distinct. For one, there is no surge pricing. “The price is the same, 24/7,” George said. Riders can also book rides in advance. A button on the app also provides access to live customer service, and another is coming soon to request ADA compliance.
George also pointed to the drivers themselves as an asset. They’re professional, and they’re driving regulated vehicles, he said. Along with the dispatch system, the fact that the drivers may know a shortcut also shortens ride times. We asked if Transdev has lost drivers to the ridesharing companies, who offer flexibility as an independent contractor.
“When the app services have opened up, there was an initial departing of some drivers. Typically most of them come back,” he said.
Transdev is planning a launch party for the app from 6-9 p.m. tonight at Phillips in the Inner Harbor. They company says it will donate to the Kennedy Krieger Institute as part of the launch.
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