MARK AUSTIN THOMAS: There are 13,000 taxis cruising the streets of New York City. In December, the price of a ride went up after a higher idling charge was approved. A new car service is hoping to take away some business from the taxis. even though it’s charging more money. Marketplace’s Lisa Napoli explores why some people are willing to fork over the extra cash.
LISA NAPOLI: When you think of the streets of New York City, you think traffic. That means noise, of course, and pollution:
ROO ROGERS: In New York City, 1 in 8 children have asthma.
That’s Roo Rogers, the founder of a year old environmentally friendly car service called Ozocar.
ROGERS: The average Lincoln Town Car or Crown Vic that yellow cabs drive do between 8 and 11 miles per gallon.
Rogers’ drivers ride hip-to-be green Toyota Priuses and even on the unforgiving streets of New York, cars get 40 to 45 miles a gallon.
Now, it costs a bit more than your average car service and a lot more than a taxi ride, but if you want to get from point a to point B in New York, now you can do it with less guilt.
Recently Rogers and one of his drivers, Justin Gordon, gave me a lift to our New York bureau.
ROGERS: That screen there tells you whether the battery is operating the car or whether you’re using the gas engine because even when you’re using the gas engine, you’re charging the battery. The battery is bascially always in use.
Not to mention the savings on gas: around $2,000 a year versus $7,200 a year for a stretch limo.
But there’s more to this car service than a hybrid ride in a virtuous car:
ROGERS: We decided to put Wi-Fi in every car, an iBook in every car and an AC power strip so you can plug in and charge up. So basically we turned the car into mobile offices.
Or, if you prefer, a place to tune in Sirius satellite radio.
The drivers of Ozocar’s fleet of 75 vehicles are dispatched by Blackberry, equipped with navigational features and that makes Justin’s life as a driver easier.
JUSTIN GORDON: Say you’re in Westchester and a customer wants to find a shopping center, we could just type it in, go to shopping center or a restaurant anything, it’s perfect.
Perfect is how an aspiring screenwriter like Justin sees his job, with all its downtime and perks.
GORDON: Main reason I work for this company, because I don’t have to pay for my own computer and satellite and Howard Stern, I love him. I listen to Howard Stern 24 hours a day. I have steady calls where I sit there for just like 6 hours and I’m on the computer doing research and writing so it’s great, it’s great for me.”
So while one driver is working to get to Hollywood in the downtime between trips to the airport, his boss is hoping to take Ozocar on the road.
Plans are to open branches in London, Washington and Chicago next year.
In New York, I’m Lisa Napoli for Marketplace.
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