Businesses meet need for children's transportation in Grapevine, Colleyville, Southlake

In October, Los Angeles-based company HopSkipDrive launched in Dallas and began servicing surrounding suburbs, including Grapevine, Colleyville and Southlake. (courtesy HopSkipDrive)
In October, Los Angeles-based company HopSkipDrive launched in Dallas and began servicing surrounding suburbs, including Grapevine, Colleyville and Southlake. (courtesy HopSkipDrive)

In October, Los Angeles-based company HopSkipDrive launched in Dallas and began servicing surrounding suburbs, including Grapevine, Colleyville and Southlake. (courtesy HopSkipDrive)

Image description
Companies like Uber and Lyft have paved the way for ride-hailing businesses, but they underserve a specific demographic: children and teenagers. (Sources: Uber, Lyft, HopSkipDrive, Bubbl, VanGo/Community Impact Newspaper)
Image description
More families are using app-based transportation services to drive their children and teenagers to school and activities. These businesses are expanding into local cities to help meet those demands. (Sources: HopSkipDrive, Bubbl,VanGo/Community Impact Newspaper)
Image description
As ride-hailing for children grows in the area, companies offer different features to stand out.
Uber and Lyft have become household names in the ride-hailing business, but to request a ride, passengers have to be at least 18 years old or be accompanied by an adult. This leaves out busy parents who are scrambling for better solutions to getting their children to school and activities.

Several companies that launched to meet the demand by catering to unaccompanied minors are gaining traction in the Dallas-Fort Worth area.

Using these app-based transportation services, families can book rides in advance to take students to and from school, work, after-school activities, extracurriculars or anywhere else they need to be.

Hired drivers go through extensive background checks, and various companies require a specific amount or kind of experience before hiring. Many apps have ride-tracking capabilities for parents to monitor rides as well as a support team to contact in case of emergencies.

Parents using the app receive driver identification details before their children get in the car, and notification alerts are sent through the app to let parents know their children have arrived at their destinations safely.

Company executives said the demand for this service stems from traffic congestion, hectic schedules and large populations.

McKinney resident John Smith said he has used one app—Bubbl—for two years for his children who go to school in Dallas. It has helped him manage his time at home and at work in Sherman. Smith is divorced and said he has his children about 50% of the time.

"I could not physically run my law practice and travel down to Dallas three days out of the week to pick them up from school in the evenings,” Smith said.

In October, Los Angeles-based company HopSkipDrive launched in Dallas and began servicing surrounding suburbs, including Grapevine, Colleyville and Southlake. This service followed on the heels of New York-based VanGo, which launched in the DFW region over the summer.

“Dallas—overall, the metroplex—is a growing area,” HopSkipDrive CEO Joanna McFarland said. “Hundreds of thousands of people are moving here every year. There are over a million kids that are school age in this area, and traffic and congestion are certainly [problems]. We thought that this is something that we could really help solve.”

A representative from another company, Zum, confirmed via email that it, too, expects to begin serving the DFW area at a later, unspecified date. Meanwhile, Dallas residents may be more familiar with Bubbl, which has been operating in the city limits since 2016.

Bubbl also works with area nonprofits whose clients may face transportation barriers, said Pam Adams, co-founder of and chief growth officer for Bubbl.

While Bubbl serves the North Dallas area, it can accommodate rides to and from Tarrant County and surrounding cities, Adams said in an email. Rides that remain within Tarrant County will carry additional fees if they can be accommodated.

In October, Tarrant County Commissioners Court also approved a contract with Bubbl to serve clients of county organizations, such as its public health department, the administrator’s office, the criminal district attorney’s office and other departments.

“As far as being here locally, we were really the first,” Adams said. “They are now starting to come from all over. Some people have different specialties. Some are offering buses and shuttle. Some are hiring mothers. Some are looking at private drivers versus carpooling, so there are definitely different models that are being experimented with.”

Serving the community

There is a “huge need” for this type of service, McFarland said. She and two other women started HopSkipDrive because they were struggling to balance work and family life. “We started HopSkipDrive really to solve our own problem as parents,” she said.

In addition to serving families directly, McFarland’s company also partners with local school districts, including Keller ISD. The school district contracts with HopSkipDrive for transportation services for a limited number of qualifying students.

The KISD Federal Programs Department began working with the service provider in August. HopSkipDrive helps about seven students who live outside the school district due to special circumstances, said Leigh Cook, the district’s director of federal programs and academic compliance.

“When we’re dealing with one or two students who live in Arlington or North Richland Hills or [somewhere else], this is more cost-effective and more timely than sending a big, yellow bus,” Cook said.

Grapevine-Colleyville ISD is currently exploring the possibility of a similar partnership, GCISD Executive Communications Director Kristin Snively said in an email.

Carroll ISD, however, is not currently looking at this transportation option, Julie Thannum, CISD assistant superintendent for board and community relations, said in an email.

Target demographics

HopSkipDrive and Bubbl also serve adults, such as seniors who cannot drive themselves or those with special needs. VanGo, on the other hand, caters exclusively to older children and teenagers.

“We really geared ourselves as a company for working parents and specifically for working moms,” VanGo founder Marta Jamrozik said. “What we’re really trying to do is create a support system starting with transportation.”

Security features

Safety was at the forefront of the conversation during the launches of all these companies, their executives confirmed.

HopSkipDrive and VanGo require drivers to have a certain number of years of caregiving experience—this could include parents, nurses, teachers and nannies—and more than 85% of VanGo drivers are mothers, Jamrozik said.

Meanwhile, Bubbl’s drivers comprise many former or off-duty police officers, first responders, medics and other civil servants.

In addition to driver background checks, companies have vehicles inspected before being deployed.

Although minors can benefit from transportation services, the terms and conditions for these apps have a minimum 18-years age requirement to create accounts and order rides. Users enter their credit card information and pay after they reach their destinations.

“Uber sort of created this world of ride-on-demand, and I think we’ve just sort of taken that idea and taken it to a different level to provide [safe services] for busy families that just need to get the kids where they need to be and have the accountability to do so,” Adams said.


Texas Commissioner of Education Mike Morath announced in a June 30 State Board of Education meeting that students will be taking the STAAR in the 2020-21 school year. (Courtesy Pixabay)
Education organizations call for STAAR requirements to be waived another year

Gov. Greg Abbott waived the State of Texas Assessments of Academic Readiness, or STAAR, testing requirements in March of earlier this year in response to the coronavirus pandemic.

With a clinical background in internal, pulmonary and critical care medicine, Corry has been with BCM for 20 years. He now focuses primarily on inflammatory lung diseases, such as asthma and smoking-related chronic obstructive pulmonary diseases. (Graphic by Ronald Winters/Community Impact Newspaper)
Q&A: Baylor College of Medicine's Dr. David Corry discusses immunity, vaccine production amid COVID-19 pandemic

Rapid development and distribution of a vaccine worldwide and successful achievement of herd immunity will be key players in determining the lifespan of the COVID-19 pandemic, said Dr. David Corry, a professor of Medicine in the Immunology, Allergy and Rheumatology Section at Baylor College of Medicine.

The annual Heights Car Show will look slightly different from years past. (Courtesy David Alvey)
Richardson car show to carry on, part of Keller trail to close: DFW business, community news

Read the latest business and community news from Dallas-Fort Worth here.

The new partnership will provide on-site, same-day testing and results for assisted-living facility staff and their residents. (Courtesy Adobe Stock)
State announces partnership for increased COVID-19 testing for patients, staff at assisted-living facilities, nursing homes

These test sites will help the state work toward the goal of processing up to 100,000 tests in the first month.

Collective MVMT opens exercise studio in Southlake

Collective MVMT opened at the end of June at 2251 E. Southlake Blvd., Ste. 100, Southlake.

(Compiled by Anna Lotz/Community Impact Newspaper)
Learn about advantages, disadvantages of refinancing home amid low interest rates

When interest rates are low, homeowners may look to save money by refinancing, which means getting a new mortgage with a better term or interest rate to lower payments.

(Ellen Jackson/Community Impact Newspaper)
DATA: See annual real estate trends in Grapevine, Colleyville, Southlake

The number of homes sold in the yearlong period that ended May 31, 2020, declined in Grapevine, Colleyville and Southlake as well as in Tarrant County as a whole.

The Weihenstephaner Pils, a hoppy pale lager, is one of the German beers Bavarian Grill serves straight from the tap. (Courtesy Bavarian Grill)
Lewisville school plans, police reform talks and other popular DFW stories from this week

Here are five recent updates from Greater Dallas on restaurants opening and closing, community conversations about policing and more.

Effective July 9, hospitals in more than 100 counties across the state must now postpone elective surgeries unrelated to COVID-19. (Courtesy Adobe Stock)
MAP: Governor expands restrictions on elective surgeries to more than 100 Texas counties

Texas Gov. Greg Abbott expanded the restrictions that initially required only hospitals in Bexar, Dallas, Harris, and Travis counties to postpone all non-medically necessary surgeries and procedures that are unrelated to COVID-19.

(Ellen Jackson/Community Impact Newspaper)
Low supply, high demand for housing underlined by COVID-19 in Grapevine, Colleyville, Southlake

Some North Texas real estate experts say COVID-19 has resulted in fewer homes on the market, but demand remains as high as ever.

Leased vehicles in Richardson are subject to property taxes. (Courtesy Adobe Stock)
Lexus Grapevine dealership is now under new ownership

Asbury Automotive Group has acquired the Lexus Grapevine dealership at 901 E. SH 114, Grapevine, according to a July 6 announcement.

The Frisco Chamber of Commerce will host its State of the City panel discussion online July 14. (William C. Wadsack/Community Impact Newspaper)
Frisco chamber to host State of the City, Crayola Experience reopens in Plano: Business, community news from DFW

Read the latest Community Impact Newspaper coverage of the Dallas-Fort Worth area.