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Ride-hailing startup aimed at transporting kids launches in the Seattle area

HopSkipDrive driver Taitai picks up Eva Hakala after school in Seattle

Getting kids to after-school activities can be difficult for working parents, but ride-hailing startups are trying to address that need.

HopSkipDrive, a California company that allows parents to book rides for their children, recently launched in Seattle. CEO Joanna McFarland said the company has signed up about 100 drivers in the area.

It sounds a little like Uber for kids, but McFarland said it’s more like babysitters who drive.

“We’re caregivers on wheels,” she said.

McFarland said parents can book rides up to eight hours in advance and see the profile of the driver ahead of time. The minimum cost is $22 for a ride and then increases based on mileage and time. She said drivers must have five years of caregiving experience and meet other safety criteria, including background checks, car inspections and driving record checks.

HopSkipDrive also aims to tap growing demand from school districts for better student transportation options. School systems often use cabs to transport students in foster care or kids who lack permanent housing.

“The students are highly mobile. They move around quite a bit. It’s really hard to fit them onto a fixed route bus schedule,” McFarland said. “And we already know there’s a big shortage of bus drivers, so we help schools manage some of their alternative transportation needs.”

HopSkipDrive recently signed contracts with Lake Washington, Issaquah and Mercer Island school districts. It's in the process of finalizing an agreement with Seattle Public Schools.

In July 2017, Ashley Gross became KNKX's youth and education reporter after years of covering the business and labor beat. She joined the station in May 2012 and previously worked five years at WBEZ in Chicago, where she reported on business and the economy. Her work telling the human side of the mortgage crisis garnered awards from the Illinois Associated Press and the Chicago Headline Club. She's also reported for the Alaska Public Radio Network in Anchorage and for Bloomberg News in San Francisco.