The Pittsburgh Transportation Group's trademark yellow taxis will largely become a thing of the past as the company shifts resources toward its fledgling taxi service, zTrip, officials announced this week.
Though Pittsburgh Transportation Group will continue to operate about 10 yellow taxis at airport and hotel stands around Pittsburgh to prevent another company from taking over the brand, most of the company's 325-vehicle fleet will be painted gray and marked with the zTrip logo by mid-September.
"It's the end of an era," President Jamie Campolongo said.
Pittsburgh Yellow Cab has been in business since 1913 and boasts its place as one of the nation's first taxi companies and the Steel City's largest.
Campolongo said requesting a zTrip car would be mostly app-driven, but that drivers "won't turn our backs" on those who'd prefer to hail a cab on the street or request a cab through a phone call.
He said the change, which started edging toward the zTrip brand last year, was spurred by customers' changing expectations created by the success of Uber and Lyft, both of which launched ride-sharing services in Pittsburgh in 2014.
“That’s what this consumer-driven change has told us: they want better cars; they want better service; they want it trendy; they want it hipster; they want it fuel efficient; and that’s what we’ve given them,” Campolongo said.
He said the company would continue to employ a combined 450 part-time and full-time drivers, with about 125 of those working as owner-operators. All are subject to background checks, he said.
"We have soccer moms here on Saturday mornings driving taxi trips," Campolongo said. "I would have never guessed two years ago that'd be the case, but it is."
Leaders of taxi companies in other cities across the country are "stuck in the business," Campolongo said.
“Their position right now is to fight Uber and Lyft, and we think that’s fruitless," Campolongo said. "I can tell you that in Pennsylvania, we worked almost hand-in-hand with Uber to create the legislation that’s moving through the legislature.”
That legislation would make permanent the two-year operating permission the state gave to ride-sharing services in 2014.
Campolongo said with "no-surge" pricing and the app's ability to schedule rides up to a year in advance, he thinks zTrip can be a viable contender with international giants Uber and Lyft.
“What Pittsburgh has told us is, ‘Give us a competitive product and we’d rather go local.’ That’s what we plan to do: give a competitive product, and hope that people go local.”