ridesharing for kids

New convenient ridesharing service for kids rolls out in Houston

The new service rolling out in Houston is part Uber for kids, part carpool. Photo courtesy of HopSkipDrive

Living in Houston is great, but it does present some challenges — especially for busy families. Imagine this scenario: it's Tuesday morning, Mom has an early office meeting, Dad has to fly out of IAH on business, and three kids have to be transported to two different schools ... and it all has to happen before 8 am.

That scene probably plays closer to reality for many Bayou City parents. Add into it the regular crush of our city's congestion and it's enough for anyone to lose their mind.

Enter HopSkipDrive. Part Uber, part carpool the service just launched in Houston, billing itself as a safe an innovative transportation solution for both families and schools. It's already working with more than 170 schools and districts nationwide in cities in Arizona, California, Colorado, and Virginia, as well as Washington, D.C.

The company provides transit solutions for students of all levels and abilities who may have different schedules from day-to-day, as well as youth in foster care and families whose school choice placements don't fit neatly into a bus routing plan.

The system works similarly to other ride shares. Parents download the HopSkipDrive app or use the company's website to request rides for children who are at least six years old. Parents can customize ride instructions with notes about carpool line, pickup and drop-off procedures, and other details. Before the ride, parents receive a photo profile of their CareDriver, which they can share with their child and their school. During the ride, parents receive progress alerts at each step.

If all that has alarm bells going off in parents' and educators' heads, HopSkipDrive understands, and the company assures them it has a rigorous screening procedure for its drivers. Every CareDriver has at least five years of care-giving experience and has passed a 15-point certification process.

This certification is a stringent vetting process, including fingerprinting, background checks using FBI and Department of Justice database searches, driving record checks, and in-person meetings. Drivers must own or lease a four-door vehicle that is not more than 10 years old that can seat between four and seven passengers, and must pass a yearly 19-point inspection.

In addition, parents can get live text notifications during their child's ride, HopSkipDrive's Safe Ride Support (SRS) is the only U.S.-based team in the industry that monitors every ride in real time. Staffed with former 911 operators, EMTs, childcare specialists, and parents, SRS ensures every rider is delivered safely to their destination.

"As a working mother of two, I understand how challenging it is to balance your children's ever-changing daily schedules with workplace demands," says Joanna McFarland, the company's founder and CEO in a press release that announced the company's Houston launch. "Parents shouldn't have to choose between their careers and their children's education and activities, but that tough choice is very real for countless families. 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. We're thrilled to arrive in the Greater Houston Area to answer the transportation needs of many students, families and schools."

And individual schools or school districts can also partner with the ride share service for their student transportation needs.

"HopSkipDrive is not only 60 percent less expensive than our previous car service solution, but far more reliable," says Mike Hush, director of transportation with Littleton Public Schools in Colorado. "We had worked with HopSkipDrive for only a few weeks before we quadrupled the number of students riding with CareDrivers."

The company touts itself as both an asset and a success in cities around the country. With its working-mom founding team, heightened approach to safety, and real-time technology approach, HopSkipDrive could provide a valuable service for Houston's busy working families.

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This article originally ran on CultureMap.

Gow Media launched a new platform and sister site to InnovationMap with a reception at The Grove on Nov. 5. Photo by Jacob Power

On a crisp Election Night evening, Houstonians motored to The Grove to mix and mingle at the exclusive launch party for the hottest new destination for car lovers, AutomotiveMap.

The newest site from Gow Media and the team behind CultureMap, InnovationMap, and SportsMap, AutomotiveMap will steer passionate readers to the latest car news and inside looks at the hottest rides, from an army of in-the-know experts.

The exclusive event featured a host of business leaders, social stars, and motoring enthusiasts. Gow Media CEO David Gow welcomed guests, explaining the "wild ride" growth of Gow Media's platforms and introducing the new site and founding editor, Eileen Falkenberg-Hull.

"What I love about Eileen is that she knows everything about about autos, she's a great writer, and she's savvy," Gow noted.

Falkenberg-Hull laid out the map for AutomotiveMap. "AutomotiveMap appeals to the average customer with the goal of informing their purchasing decisions," she explained. "It engages with enthusiasts and works to encourage enthusiasm among those discovering their passion. And it covers a wide variety of material from new cars to auto industry innovations to sexy cars and car culture."

While trading cool car stories, guests noshed on a feast provided by The Grove, including bacon-wrapped quail, fried truffle macaroni and cheese, tuna tartare tacos, avocado toast with lentils and radishes, and fried fish fritters. A smorgasbord in the form of a massive antipasto station with cured meats and cheeses greeted diners.

Attendees also snapped pics at the selfie booth and clamored around ESPN 97.5 hosts Fred Faour, A.J. Hoffman, and Glenn Davis as the teams broadcasted live from the event.

"I don't think people realize how many people have a passion for cars in this city," said avid car collector Alan Stein, whose collection ranges from a 1935 Chrysler AirFlow to new Ferraris. "A lot of it is under the radar. I think people love their cars, their collections, and so this will be interesting."

Seen in the crowd were NBA legend, Elvin Hayes; Nick Florescu; Elizabeth Stein; Lawson Gow; John and Leah Manlove; John and Mary Craddock; David Stevenson; Scott and Linda Burdine; Steven and Andi Berkman; Mark and Meredith Barineau; Audrey Gow; Natalie Harms; Chris Dvorachek; Justin Makris; and Neal Patel.

Revved-up enthusiasts can follow AutomotiveMap daily as well as on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter.

"The launch party is just the beginning," said Falkenberg-Hull. "AutomotiveMap will evolve to be a true multimedia destination for everything automotive."

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This article originally ran on CultureMap.