In the past month, two ride-hailing apps for parents have entered the Houston market with plans to expand services into its suburbs.
"Working moms, they often don’t have an option. This was built with working moms in mind," said Marta Jamrozik, CEO and founder of the New York-based VanGo.
She said she sees the service as one of potentially many to support the needs of parents.
"We’re treating this as a support system for them, starting with transportation," Jamrozik said.
Both VanGo and the other entrant, HopSkipDrive, say they can help parents get their children to and from school and other activities.
Lacking other options, parents may have relied on Uber, Lyft and other ride-hailing to shuttle children, despite the terms of service of those platforms forbidding unaccompanied minors. A 2016 Pew Research Center study found that about one-third of ride-hailing users agreed that they were a "good way for parents to make sure their children get around safely when they can’t drive them."
For VanGo, all of its drivers must have at least three years of child care experience, including nannies, teachers or babysitters, and must undergo a local and national background check, reference checks, fingerprinting and thorough vehicle inspection. HopSkipDrive has similar requirements, though it asks for five years of child care experience, according to a news release.
"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," said Joanna McFarland, co-founder and CEO of Los Angeles-based HopSkipDrive, in the release.
HopSkipDrive says it has partnered with schools and school districts as part of its service rollout.
Both apps provide ride scheduling and GPS tracking, and VanGo allows parents to identify preferred drivers.
"Families and drivers like forming relationships, so if they want to work with the same drivers on a recurring basis, so we have a feature for that," Jamrozik said.
The cost of rides on VanGo tend to run a little more expensive than Uber and Lyft, she said, due in part to those stricter requirements on drivers.
As a new entrant in the market, the goal now is to recruit drivers to meet the demand and gradually expand to Houston's suburbs over the next few months, Jamrozik said.
Houston ISD officials said the district does not have any coordination with either VanGo or HopSkipDrive.