Sign up for our daily briefing

Make your busy days simpler with Axios AM/PM. Catch up on what's new and why it matters in just 5 minutes.

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Catch up on coronavirus stories and special reports, curated by Mike Allen everyday

Catch up on coronavirus stories and special reports, curated by Mike Allen everyday

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Denver news in your inbox

Catch up on the most important stories affecting your hometown with Axios Denver

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Des Moines news in your inbox

Catch up on the most important stories affecting your hometown with Axios Des Moines

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Minneapolis-St. Paul news in your inbox

Catch up on the most important stories affecting your hometown with Axios Twin Cities

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Tampa Bay news in your inbox

Catch up on the most important stories affecting your hometown with Axios Tampa Bay

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Charlotte news in your inbox

Catch up on the most important stories affecting your hometown with Axios Charlotte

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Jalen Walker heads to football practice using service HopSkipDrive with driver Jacqueline Bouknight in Springfield, Virginia last April. Photo: Marvin Joseph/The Washington Post via Getty Images.

When startups set out to become the “Uber for kids” several years ago, they predicted parents would use them to ferry children to and from school and activities — but they’ve since found a much bigger customer: schools.

The big picture: Companies like HopSkipDrive and Zum are getting much of their business from schools using their services to replace or supplement the traditional school buses, especially for students with special needs or for trips outside of existing routes.

How it works: These services typically employ contractors as drivers, but with a twist: They’re required to have child-care experience and pass rigorous background checks, including fingerprinting. In short: they’re babysitters with cars.

  • Parents and schools can book and track rides through apps and dashboards. While parents pay per ride or via monthly subscriptions, some companies sign longer contracts with schools and districts.
  • Schools make up 80% of Zum’s business today, according to co-founder and CEO Ritu Narayan, and 70% of HopSkipDrive’s revenue, the company recently told TechCrunch.
  • Narayan adds that the two main issues with school buses is that they're either underutilized, or when they're full, children end up spending quite a lot of time en route.

What they’re saying: Garvey School District chief business officer Grace Garner told the Washington Post last year that her school district in Rosemead, California, saved more than half a million dollars in the first year of switching from buses to Zum, and cut down the commute of many special education students from 45 minutes to 15.

Between the lines: The success of these companies underscores the undeniable gap in transportation suitable for kids, especially in suburbs and other less dense areas where public transit may not be accessible or safe.

Yes, but: As with other ride-hailing companies like Uber and Lyft, questions remain about how environmentally friendly it is to have private cars shuttling kids to and from school rather than a large bus.

  • Zum argues that it’s actually more sustainable because it offers a range of vehicle sizes including vans, replaces many instances where a parent would drive their child when school buses aren’t available or convenient, and that on average, each ride transports 2.8 kids.
  • “That distribution is built-in because kids are going to the same school,” says Narayan.

Be smart: These companies don't solve for the needs of teenagers, who want independence to get around, but may not be old enough to drive, have a license, or access to a car.

  • As some parents have admitted to Axios, they let their teens use Uber and Lyft despite both companies banning passengers under 18.

Go deeper:

Go deeper

1 hour ago - World

Special report: Trump's U.S.-China transformation

Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios

President Trump began his term by launching the trade war with China he had promised on the campaign trail. By mid-2020, however, Trump was no longer the public face of China policy-making as he became increasingly consumed with domestic troubles, giving his top aides carte blanche to pursue a cascade of tough-on-China policies.

Why it matters: Trump alone did not reshape the China relationship. But his trade war shattered global norms, paving the way for administration officials to pursue policies that just a few years earlier would have been unthinkable.

McConnell: Trump "provoked" Capitol mob

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) said on Tuesday that the pro-Trump mob that stormed the U.S. Capitol on Jan. 6 was "provoked by the president and other powerful people."

Why it matters: Trump was impeached by the House last week for "incitement of insurrection." McConnell has not said how he will vote in Trump's coming Senate impeachment trial, but sources told Axios' Mike Allen that the chances of him voting to convict are higher than 50%.

2 hours ago - Politics & Policy

GOP leaders skip Trump sendoff in favor of church with Biden

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.), Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.), Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) and House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) in July. Photo by Erin Scott-Pool/Getty Images

Congressional leaders, including House GOP leader Kevin McCarthy and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, will skip President Trump's departure ceremony in Maryland tomorrow morning in favor of attending mass with incoming President Joe Biden ahead of his inauguration, congressional sources familiar with their plans tell Axios.

Why it matters: Their decision is a clear sign of unity before Biden takes the oath of office.