NORTH TEXAS (CBSDFW.COM) – Parents know it’s impossible to be in two places at once. But a new service emerging in the Metroplex could be the next best thing.
Several companies are now offering rideshare services that cater specifically to children.
Using an app, parents can schedule rides for their children. The driver can then take the kids wherever they need to go, from after-school activities to doctor’s appointments.
“My husband heard about it on the radio and called me up and said, ‘Hey, you can make some money driving kids around,” said Jennifer, who asked her name not be used. “I had been a stay-at-home mom for many years. I shuffle kids, I volunteer. I have always driven kids everywhere.”
Jennifer works for VanGo, a rideshare service that caters exclusively to kids.
“Every child I have driven is so respectful, they are a delight,” she said.
Jennifer said before every ride, she sends the parent and child pictures of herself and her car. During the trip, parents can monitor the progress of the ride until the car reaches the intended destination.
Lyft and Uber state users must be at least 18 years old to have an account and request rides.
But VanGo is among several ridshare companies targeting minors in North Texas, along with Bubbl, HopSkipDrive, and Zum.
“We are picking up their precious cargo, you want to make sure you’re getting the right child, you’re at the right spot,” Jennifer said.
Each company touts extensive background checks, in addition to interviews and vehicle inspections. Many apps allow parents to track the trip in real-time. Access to a live-support staff is also available.
Many apps let parents choose “favorite drivers” who can routinely do pick-ups and drop-offs.
Bubbl hires off-duty police officers and first responders. HopSkipGo requires drivers to have at least five years of child care experience. Meanwhile, VanGo estimates 85 percent of its drivers are moms.
For Malar Samy, ridesharing was a game-changer.
“I work full time Monday through Friday, and also my husband works Monday through Friday,” Samy said.
Samy, a mother of two, is also the CEO of an international tech firm, Virtual Tech Gurus.
She said she uses ridesharing apps to get her two active daughters where they need to go.
“They do tennis and basketball, volleyball and soccer,” said Samy, ticking off her daughters’ activities.
Samy said in her case, ridesharing became so convenient that she stopped using babysitters and nannies altogether. Now she schedules multiple rides per day.
Like Uber and Lyft, most companies price fares based on time and distance.
But the fees can add up quickly.
For example, Bubbl charges extra for lateness, car and booster seats, and escorting a child to her destination.
Using VanGo, Samy said she pays roughly $30 per ride to shuttle her two children, a price she said is worth it.
“It is a bit expensive, but the premiums pays off with a peace of mind.” Samy said. “Safety is my big, number one thing.”
School districts in North Texas have also started using these rideshare services. Mesquite ISD, Keller ISD, Fort Worth ISD and Wylie ISD confirmed they contract with rideshare programs.
“We use [HopSkipDrive] to help transport our secondary-age homeless students who do not live within our attendance zone,” said a spokesperson for Keller ISD. “The rider can use the app or receive text messages with pictures of the car and driver, and there is a password established that the student must provide before getting in the car. Drivers wear a specific T-shirt and there are logos on the vehicles to identify them.”
Mesquite ISD also uses HopSkipDrive to accommodate students without a permanent residence.
“If a student were attending school in Mesquite ISD and then became homeless resulting in he or she moving to a shelter in Dallas, we would offer transportation back to the MISD school where the student was attending,” wrote Elizabeth Fernandez, a spokeswoman for Mesquite ISD. “The goal is to continue a student’s placement at the same school for the sake of continuity for that student.”
Fernandez said the McKinney-Vento Act sets aside federal funds to support homeless students, including transportation needs.
Wylie ISD relies on funding from state grants and Title I allotments to transport students who may be homeless or in foster care.
CBS 11 News compiled information about the rideshare companies in DFW catering to minors:
- Touts nannies, teachers and babysitters as drivers
- States 85 percent of drivers are mothers
- Drivers must have minimum of three years of childcare experience
- Applicants must provide family references, pass background and driving record checks, vehicle inspection
- App sends push notifications and GPS ride tracking
- 15-point certification process that involves fingerprints, background checks, monitoring driving records
- Applicants must have minimum of five years of experience in child care
- Vehicle must pass inspection by certified mechanic
- Riders will get a chance to review driver’s profile before trip starts
- Drivers wear bring orange t-shirts, display orange car decals, and confirm a code word and child’s birth date upon pick up
- Offers real-time support from ride support team
- All drivers subject to criminal background check, motor vehicle report and drug testing
- Bubbl hires off-duty/honorably discharged first responders, officers, medical professionals, military personnel veterans, etc.
- Offers hourly service where driver stays with you and takes you wherever you need
- All vehicles monitored, approved and branded by Bubbl
- Bubbl notifies users 20 minutes before ride begins, when drive arrives, when ride begins, when ride completed
- Able to remotely watch route in action
- Drivers are fingerprinted and must pass FBI, DOJ and DMV background checks
- Parents can track rides in real time; prior to ride, parents can view driver’s profile
- Drivers must be 21+ and have clean driving record for past three years
- Drivers required to have at least 3 years of childcare experience
- Vehicles must be 2009 or newer and pass 19-point vehicle inspection
- Applicants subjected to a driving test, ride along
- Drivers must provide proof of annual inspection, ongoing maintenance