No joke! In the first week of April, a ride sharing service for kids entered the Denver market. Yes, HopSkipDrive—an “Uber for kids”—is here, founded by three moms who know that the kid transport struggle is real.
The founders are all working moms who designed the program with their own transportation challenges in mind. Co-founder and south Denver native Joanna McFarland says that HopSkipDrive is more like a “caregiver on wheels” than a traditional ride service like Uber or Lyft. The company provides rides for children with background-checked drivers who have at least five years of childcare experience, all of whom have been personally interviewed by management.
Rides can be customized on the app or website with special instructions. “When I use HopSkipDrive, the caregivers know that they have to park and go into the school and sign my son, Jackson, out,” explains McFarland. As an added layer of security, caregivers have to provide a code word that is known to the child rider, who has also been shown a picture of the driver beforehand. Parents receive notifications at pickup and dropoff and realtime monitoring throughout their child’s ride.
HopSkipDrive serves children ages 6 and up and provides booster seats if needed. Launched in California three years ago, the service is now operating in central Denver, including Stapleton, Park Hill, Lowry, Montclair and Mayfair. It plans to expand across the Front Range shortly and then to Colorado Springs and Boulder. The company chose Denver because it is one of the fastest growing cities in the country, because its school choice system means kids often cross town for the best match and because it is a “work hard/play hard” place, noted McFarland.
Families can book recurrent rides months in advance—for after school practices or to get their children to or from school, for example—and must book at least eight hours ahead.
Rides start at $15 and increase for time and distance, but carpool rides can be as low as $6 with multiple families in the car.
“We really see it every day how much we’re changing families’ lives,” said McFarland. “Moms have told us they’ve been able to go back to work or get promotions because they’re not sneaking out early.” And kids have been able to join traveling teams, take specialized acting classes or go to the school that is right for them because of the availability of affordable, safe transportation, she added. Senior citizens who no longer drive are also welcome to use the service.
HopSkipDrive has also partnered directly with hundreds of schools to provide transportation for students when a full bus isn’t necessary or affordable and plans to pilot that service in Denver in the coming months.
Asked if supply will keep up with demand in an area where parents have been clamoring for such a service for years, McFarland was sanguine. “We have incredibly high fill rates for rides that are requested, where we match care drivers to those rides,” she said. HopSkipDrive will roll out from central Denver in a careful fashion to make sure they keep families satisfied.
To sign up or learn more about it, visit their website at www.hopskipdrive.com.