September 3, 2019
Reams of stories have been written about the stress inflicted on children in today’s over-scheduled society. But what about their parents, who must coordinate a schedule to transport or carpool the kids—from music instruction to the baseball diamond to dancing classes to language tutelage, to the stationery store for poster board and paints?
What’s worse, it only takes one hitch in the day to make the whole fraught agenda simply crash and burn. So what’s a parent to do?
Now there’s a company that wants to shuttle the kids for you—and, in doing so, to eliminate (totally or occasionally) your crushing duty to schlep. It’s a ride-hailing company for kids called Zūm.
In addition to being available to swamped moms and dads, Zūm has partnered with dozens of California school districts in recent years and is available to students at 2,000 schools in the Bay Area and Los Angeles, many of which still rely on yellow buses as well, the company recently told The Washington Post.
And on August 29, Zūm —which is accessible to parents through a mobile app and claims it has already completed 1 million rides—announced that it is expanding to a half-dozen other cities around the country, including San Diego, Miami, Phoenix, Dallas, Chicago and the Washington D.C. area. Rides will begin in those locations next month.
In Washington D.C., Zūm will compete with HopSkipDrive, ride-hailing service founded by three working mothers in Los Angeles for children ages 6 to 18 that arrived on the East Coast earlier this year.
In Dallas, Zūm will compete with Bubbl, a ride service staffed by off-duty police officers and first responders—one of many small transportation companies that have popped up around the country in recent years seeking to fill a similar niche, the Post reports.
Such companies could usher in a new era of safer, greener and more data-rich transportation for students that can be tracked by parents in real time.
Investors know that ride-hailing has already been widely adopted by young people, but with a serious caveat that could play into Zūm’s favor: Unaccompanied minors are prohibited from using services like Uber and Lyft, although experts warn that it can be difficult to verify a rider’s age.
Indeed, according to the Post, data from a teen debit card company reveal that “ride-sharing services combined to capture 84% of teen spending on taxi services.” Despite age restrictions, some teenagers use drivers with specialized insurance that allows them to drive younger passengers, the study notes. Unlike Uber or Lyft, Zūm rides are booked the day before and the service is not designed to be on-demand.
Zūm claims its drivers have three years or more of childcare experience. They undergo background checks and SafeSchools training courses and claim their safety protocols are reviewed by KidsAndCars.org, a national non-profit child safety organization. The company says its business model is fundamentally dependent on its ability to keep students safe.
When used by families outside of school, Zūm starts at $10 for carpool rides (per child for a one-way trip) and $16 for a single (non-carpool) ride. But like Uber or Lyft, the company says, prices vary depending on location and time of day. At about $20 a ride, HopSkipDrive is also more expensive than alternatives like Uber and Lyft, but also offers carpooling options that lower prices.
Research contact: @washingtonpost