Living in Houston is great, but it does present some challenges — especially for busy families. Imagine this scenario: it's Tuesday morning, Mom has an early office meeting, Dad has to fly out of IAH on business, and three kids have to be transported to two different schools — and it all has to happen before 8 am.
That scene probably plays closer to reality for many Bayou City parents. Add into it the regular crush of our city's congestion, and it's enough for anyone to lose their mind.
Enter HopSkipDrive. Part Uber, part carpool, the service just launched in Houston, billing itself as a safe and innovative transportation solution for both families and schools. It's already working with more than 170 schools and districts nationwide in cities in Arizona; California; Colorado; and Virginia; as well as Washington, D.C.
The company provides transit solutions for students of all levels and abilities who may have different schedules from day-to-day, as well as youth in foster care and families whose school choice placements don’t fit neatly into a bus routing plan.
The system works similarly to other ride shares. Parents download the HopSkipDrive app or use the company's website to request rides for children who are at least six years old. Parents can customize ride instructions with notes about carpool line, pickup, and drop-off procedures, and other details. Before the ride, parents receive a photo profile of their CareDriver, which they can share with their child and their school. During the ride, parents receive progress alerts at each step.
If all that has alarm bells going off in parents' and educators' heads, HopSkipDrive understands, and the company assures them it has a rigorous screening procedure for its drivers. Every CareDriver has at least five years of care-giving experience and has passed a 15-point certification process.
This certification is a stringent vetting process, including fingerprinting, background checks using FBI and Department of Justice database searches, driving record checks, and in-person meetings. Drivers must own or lease a four-door vehicle that is not more than 10 years old that can seat between four and seven passengers, and must pass a yearly 19-point inspection.
In addition, parents can get live text notifications during their child's ride, HopSkipDrive’s Safe Ride Support (SRS) is the only U.S.-based team in the industry that monitors every ride in real time. Staffed with former 911 operators, EMTs, childcare specialists, and parents, SRS ensures every rider is delivered safely to their destination.
“As a working mother of two, I understand how challenging it is to balance your children’s ever-changing daily schedules with workplace demands,” said Joanna McFarland, the company's founder and CEO in a press release that announced the company's Houston launch. “Parents shouldn’t have to choose between their careers and their children’s education and activities, but that tough choice is very real for countless families. HopSkipDrive wants parents to take comfort in knowing they have a caregiver to rely on to get their kids where they need to go, safely and without worry. We’re thrilled to arrive in the Greater Houston Area to answer the transportation needs of many students, families, and schools.”
And individual schools or school districts can also partner with the ride share service for their student transportation needs.
“HopSkipDrive is not only 60 percent less expensive than our previous car service solution, but far more reliable,” said Mike Hush, director of transportation with Littleton Public Schools in Colorado. “We had worked with HopSkipDrive for only a few weeks before we quadrupled the number of students riding with CareDrivers.”
The company touts itself as both an asset and a success in cities around the country. With its working-mom founding team, heightened approach to safety, and real-time technology approach, HopSkipDrive could provide a valuable service for Houston's busy working families.