By Jessica Thomas
One person who understands that drinking and driving don’t mix is PX Head, the president of Zingo Transportation, a Buckhead-based designated-driver service.
Head drove drunk in 2004 and wrecked his car, running into a telephone pole on West Paces Ferry Road. One of his best friends died in the crash.
The prosecutor in his case told him to “go do something with his life,” and Head bought in with Zingo’s founders, Jim Valentine and Charles Barfield, in April 2006, becoming an equity partner in the company and later its president.
“I wanted to be a part of it because their ultimate goal was to prevent people from making bad choices and getting into accidents like mine,” the 2005 University of Georgia graduate said.
Each weekend Zingo does just that. Head estimates Zingo has saved hundreds of lives, perhaps more, and prevented even more DUI arrests.
Focusing primarily on Buckhead, Midtown and Virginia-Highland, Zingo operates like a taxi service, but drives clients home in their own cars.
The Zingo drivers have mopeds that they put in the trunk of the client’s car so that they can drive back to the area they are working once the client is safely dropped off.
The mopeds are small enough to put in all types of cars and are efficient and safe for drivers, said Hutch Martin, Zingo’s chief operations officer. The mopeds are 50 inches long, 38 inches high and 23 inches wide.
Zingo doesn’t operate just in Atlanta. It is in more than 24 U.S. markets, mainly concentrated in the Southeast, Martin said. The Georgia locations are Atlanta, Athens and Macon. In the near future, Zingo will be in Augusta, Savannah and Statesboro as well.
In Atlanta, most of Zingo’s business comes from the Buckhead West Village, home to many bars and restaurants, Head said. “About 80 percent of all our business comes directly from Buckhead, and the No. 1 pickup spot is Five Paces Inn.”
The standard fee is $20 plus $2 per mile, not including tip, and the service runs as late as 4 a.m. on the weekends.
The average ride home is five miles, but Zingo will drive people as far as the suburbs outside I-285, Martin said. For those longer rides, however, the company uses a chase car because the scooters cannot be used on the interstates.
“People of all ages are drawn to Buckhead for its fantastic restaurants and bars, so many residents of Atlanta’s suburbs definitely come into town and enjoy themselves and at the end of the night call us for a ride,” Head said.
Andy McKoski, one of the owners of Tin Lizzy’s Cantina at the corner of Roswell and Piedmont Roads in Buckhead, said Zingo is a valuable resource for the patrons of restaurants in the area. “Zingo is phenomenal. I love those guys. It is a service that has definitely been needed for a while,” he said. “I have gotten great feedback from my patrons about its convenience and affordability. We recommend Zingo to our patrons on a daily basis.”
Zingo is sponsored locally by Budweiser and Atlanta Beverage Co. and is building a relationship with Whynatte Latte, a coffee and energy beverage. “We hope to be able to distribute these drinks to each of our customers to drink that night or the next morning,” Martin said.
Head also said Zingo is trying to grow its relationship with Zone 2 of the Atlanta Police Department, which covers the Buckhead area. “We currently have a great relationship with them and have gone by the precinct several times to introduce ourselves,” Head said. “We hope to be able to have a closer relationship with them in the future.”
Head has met with former Atlanta Mayor Sam Massell, head of the Buckhead Coalition and “mayor of Buckhead,” in the hope of strengthening Zingo’s relationship with the area’s leaders.
For more information on Zingo or to arrange a ride, visit www.callzingo.com, or call 404-679-4646.