The night before my trip with GoGreenRide, a new eco-car service in New York City, I got an email informing me my driver would be at my Williamsburg apartment at 9 a.m.
At 8:39 the next morning, I got an update, saying he would actually be there at 8:58. At 8:58, he showed up, and I got another email, plus a text message, telling me he was downstairs.
On the brief drive into Manhattan, my driver, Merrick, offered me a bottle of Voss water and chatted politely.
He reminded me there was WiFi in the car and that I could charge my phone or watch some television, or Netflix (through my account). I turned on France 24, although the quality went in and out.
The bill came out to $US21.21, about what I would have paid a yellow cab for the same trip. (GoGreenRide covered the cost.)
With the caveats that it’s quite possible Merrick knew he was chauffeuring a reporter doing a story on his employer, and that I wasn’t paying the bill, it was one of the most pleasant rides I’ve had in a while.
The JetBlue Model
The idea behind GoGreenRide, founder and CEO Yamandou Alexander told me over breakfast, was to create “JetBlue on wheels.” He wanted apply the popular airline’s model of providing quality service at a low price to the taxi industry.
In a space dominated by Uber and populated with competitors, GoGreenRide’s unusual business model is based on four priorities. In order of importance, they are reliability, service, pricing, and environmental friendliness.
GoGreenRide customers must become members first, at no charge. They can order a car ahead of time, like a traditional black car, or call one immediately via the app. The company owns its cars and hires drivers as salaried employees.
The 40 drivers now on staff work 50 to 60 hours a week and earn between $US10 and $US14/hour, plus tips, Alexander said. Each wears the same uniform and is licensed by the NYC Taxi and Limousine Commission. Uber drivers are also licensed, but are not employees of the company. They work when they want and must provide their own cars.
Because GoGreenRide drivers share cars (each a Prius V hybrid, covering the environmental angle), the company uses software employed by airlines to efficiently schedule shifts in its fleet of around 20 vehicles. That ensures there are car on the road at non-peak times as well as during rush hour.
All that allows GoGreenRide, which launched in 2012, to offer reliable rides with good service, Alexander said. Prices are closer to those of a yellow cab than a black car or Uber ride, and riders are informed of their fare before their trip.
The cost of my ride was on par with what I would have paid a yellow cab, and I didn’t have to wander the street looking for an available car. Plus, I could charge my phone, watch a television channel of my choosing, and suck up some free WiFi.
I asked Alexander if potential customers who are used to black cars might be turned off by the idea of riding in a bright green Prius. “It’s just a learning curve,” he said.
In any case, membership has been climbing at a steady rate: 72% month over month, Alexander said. The company has about 5,000 members, plus some corporate accounts, and revenue is up 42% month over month.
At this point, the company isn’t profitable, but that’s normal, Alexander said, adding that he expects to start breaking even in October or November.
To do that, the next step is putting more cars on the road — a top request from current members, who can’t always get a ride when they want one. By the end of 2014, GoGreenRide hopes to have 70 cars on the road. If they follow the rule that 3.68 drivers per car is the ideal ratio, that means hiring about 220 more drivers.
Based on a single ride, GoGreenRide provides a great service at a surprising price. If it can maintain both and put enough cars on the road to make membership worthwhile, I’d gladly become a real member.
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