Buzz TV – “5 Minutes With” with Jose Luis Davila, zTrip

Each week on 5 Minutes With, our host Howard Wolpoff talks to Buzzworthy people about Buzzworthy things. This week, Howard talks to the general manager of zTrip, Jose Luis Davila. A new ride-hailing service in Jacksonville is leading to the renaming of two old standbys in the transportation world: Yellow Checker and Gator cab companies of Jacksonville will officially be called zTrip as of Tuesday.

The company zTrip is similar to other personal transportation services such as Uber and Lyft in that a mobile phone application is used to hail a ride, but the vehicles can also be hailed on the street by riders in the traditional fashion of waving down a taxi. Already present in several cities, zTrip will not only be offering the mobile app service, but Checker and Gator cabs in Jacksonville will be changing their names to follow the zTrip branding.

That means the traditional Checker and Gator cab vehicles familiar with riders will go from the yellow and checked motif to silver paint with the zTrip logo which has a red “z” and black lettering for the “Trip” part of the logo, said Bill George, president of Transdev On Demand, owner of zTrip, Gator Cab and Checker Cab.

“We started the zTrip app about five years ago. … It’s more than just a paint job. It’s complete use of technology,” George said.

The app is fully integrated into taxi cellphone dispatching systems, he said.

Boulder, Colo., Pittsburgh, Pa., and Kansas City, Mo. and Kansas, have already had Yellow Cab service converted.

The zTrip cars will still be considered taxicabs, but the company will also offer unmarked cars, which are more standard in Uber and Lyft services.

“They have all the capabilities of a cab; you can still hop into one. We offer flexibility of payment; you can pay the driver in cash or credit card or through the app,” George said. Uber is paid automatically through the smartphone application.

“We also allow you to book us now or book us later,” George said. Uber is virtually on-demand and comes immediately when hailed. George said riders can reserve a zTrip ride several hours in advance.

Another feature of Uber and Lyft services is that they normally have lower fares. But George said the zTrip service is different from Uber or Lyft because zTrip does not do “surge pricing,” which increases fares during peak times of use.

“On a basis when they’re not surging, they [Uber and Lyft] can be cheaper. On the average trip, they might be a dollar or two cheaper, but when they surge they’re more expensive,” George said.

George said zTrip realizes there is still brand identity with the traditional taxis, so not all of them will disappear.

“When we change over a fleet, we put a host of new vehicles in there. In Jacksonville, we’ve added a bunch of new vans,” George said. “What we don’t do is paint over the yellow vehicles. There’s still some brand identity there.”

George said with the transition of the company and services added in with the fleet conversion and marketing, the project is costing the company $2.8 million.

“It’s a tremendous undertaking, but one that we get very positive results” in the cities that have already undergone the conversion, George said.

The alternative ride-hailing services have met with some controversy in many cities, including Jacksonville.

Jacksonville has failed to force Uber and Lyft and their drivers to follow the same regulations required of taxi drivers, which include vehicle inspections, background checks of drivers, and annual licensing fees. The city had demanded that the companies stop their operations, and issued a limited number of citations to the companies and their drivers.

Uber and Lyft officials maintain that they perform their own background checks. Despite those efforts, Jacksonville city officials said that they, along with other cities in the state, are looking to the Florida Legislature to settle the issue with an umbrella state law. But no such measures have been implemented.

George said the zTrip drivers are licensed professionals who receive background checks that include fingerprinting

To learn more about zTrip, go to their website at https://www.ztrip.com.

Buzz TV Host Howard Wolpoff is a marketing executive with over 25 years of experience helping hundreds of businesses create profitable solutions to drive sales, attract and maintain customers, and build a solid corporate brand. He has helped launch three businesses: Chelsea Piers Sports and Entertainment, the Brooklyn Cyclones minor league baseball team and GridironNow.com, the premier site for SEC football and currently serves as the Vice President of Client Integration at Client Focused Media. Born and raised in New York City, Howard moved to Jacksonville in 2007. He is married with three children and earned his MBA in Marketing from Fordham University. http://www.howardwolpoff.com.