Fare Game




EcoCab owner David Jung is driven to change taxi experience. ©Randy T. Fujimori

EcoCab offers hybrid alternative

By Simplicio Paragas

He takes quick showers. He uses very little soap. And he reuses a plastic bag as many times as he can. Dressed in a long-sleeved shirt and jeans, David Jung hardly looks like the tree-hugging, granola-eating stereotype. But for the 50-year-old entrepreneur, reducing his carbon footprint matters. And it starts with his barely one-year-old company, EcoCab.

“Environmentalism is no longer a left-leaning movement; it’s mainstream,” Jung asserts. “Everyone practices it nowadays, especially if it makes sense.”

Once the general counsel for Hilo Hattie, Jung decided to form EcoCab last March, inspired mostly by a promise to himself that he would leave his career in law before he turned 50. He made good on his vow, despite not knowing anything about the taxi industry.

“I knew how to flag one down and I’ve taken a lot of them,” Jung says with a smile. “But as an industry, I had no idea how to run a cab company.”

He did know that he wanted to change the people-moving experience. Too many times, Jung rode in taxis, he says, that were dirty and malodorous, and with cab drivers who spoke little English and provided, at times, even less customer service. With connections to Hyundai in his home country of Korea, Jung secured an initial fleet of seven Sonata hybrids, which he says create half the carbon footprint of typical cabs.

David Jung is driven to change the cab industry. ©Randy T. Fujimori

But having eco-friendly cars is not the only element that separates EcoCab from the other local companies. Jung’s business model includes hiring full-time drivers, as opposed to independent contractors like all other cab companies.

“My drivers receive a base salary and medical, and that’s incentive to control quality of service,” Jung says. “It’s much more expensive to operate this way but if you think about it, this is the only way to guarantee and improve customer service.”

Drivers are required to take a comprehensive four-week training course that prepares them not just for the driving tests they must pass, but the level of service that Jung expects. They also are taught basic Japanese and Korean, and given classes in Hawaiian culture and even lifesaving skills such as CPR.

Each EcoCab also offers riders an iPad that allows them to access Pandora to choose their preference of music for their ride home or any other destination. It’s a minor detail but the amenity has already won over a lot of repeat clients, many of whom schedule their rides ahead of time.

“If you take each component apart of my business plan, you’ll find nothing new there,” Jung says.  “Right now we have 21 cars. Going forward, I would like to grow my fleet of cars to 60, which would require me to hire upwards of 115 drivers. At that point, I think I could make a real impact on the industry. I could establish a uniform standard for all cab drivers and help improve the taxi experience.”

Although Jung wanted a phone number that could have its own likable ditty, he opted instead for 979.1010. “I was going to try for 222.2222,” laughs Jung, imitating the well-known Frank DeLima jingle and then repeating the same cadence while saying his own company’s digits. “Don’t you think it’s catchy?”

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