Move Over Carpools, Ride Services for Kids Are on the Rise

If you’re a LoCo parent, you’re probably familiar with the annual school year scramble—getting kids out the door and where they need to be. Parents are turning to ride services to help with after school activities, appointments and beyond, including women-operated services designed with younger kids in mind.

As the parent of a 9-year-old son, Mia Anderson of Ashburn noticed a need in her community: help for working parents transporting children who don’t need full time child care but need help getting to and from school, sports and other activities. Anderson launched BukaRide Moms—pronounced book-a-ride—children’s transportation service this summer. She started out taking kids to summer camps and now is focused on offering rides to and from school and to after school sports and activities.

“It came up in conversation with a group of friends—most of our friends have kids who are enrolled in after school activities,” Anderson said. “I did a little bit of research and I found out there was not a lot of help in the Loudoun County area.”

The service has only been up and running for a few months, but the word is spreading fast. Anderson already is getting requests for service from as far away as Alexandria and Montgomery County, MD. For now, BukaRide’s service area is limited to Ashburn, Leesburg, Aldie and South Riding, but Anderson would like to hire more drivers and expand service both in Loudoun and other areas in Northern Virginia.

For now, her all-women team of drivers includes herself and five other moms, giving an added level of comfort to elementary and middle school parents.

“Our drivers are moms—they have school-aged kids or older kids but they all know how it is to drive kids around,” Anderson said. “I wanted to make this service so moms can look at us and say, ‘There are other moms doing this, so I’m going to give them a chance.’”

While most of BukaRide’s clients are in elementary and middle school, parents of older teens say their children routinely use ride services like Uber to get where they need to go. That company’s policy requires users to be 18 or older to have an account and for minor riders to be accompanied by someone 18 or older on their ride. But despite that rule, teens in Loudoun and around the country are regularly using the service with parent-created accounts. Parents toldLoudoun Nowthat their high schoolers use Uber to get to sports practices, to school and to friends’ houses.

In small-town Lovettsville, where activities and doctor’s appointments often mean a drive of 30 minutes or more, independent, single-operator ride services are catching on.

Casey Shapiro’s Lovettsville-based Going My Way? Ride service specializes in prearranged rides from Loudoun’s northwest corner to other areas in the county. She says 50 to 60 percent of her runs are organized by parents for their kids.

One Lovettsville mom said she uses Shapiro’s service to bring her children to appointments in Leesburg so she can meet them on the way home from work. And with Shapiro’s one-driver, one-vehicle company, the small-town sense of trust keeps parents confident and at ease. Another new small-town transportation service, Georges Mill Rides, run by another mom and longtime western Loudouner Beth Metzger, has plans to offer after school rides for children in Lovettsville this fall.

BukaRide’s Anderson puts a number of extra safeguards in place to reassure parents. She recruits most of her drivers through personal referrals, runs an FBI background check along with local and state records review, requires driving records for past 10 years and inspect vehicles for the service. All of this contributes to parents’ comfort levels, she says, but communication and in-person contact are also key. For now, BukaRides doesn’t have an app, so everything is set up by individual communication. Before taking on a new client, Anderson sets up an in-person meeting with parents and kids. Parents get a copy of their driver’s license, and drivers park to text parents when young passengers are picked up and dropped off. BukaRide charges a flat fee of $20 to $25 per ride in the designated service areas.

“It’s been a lifesaver of a service for us. I’m really happy that I came upon it,” saidShaniqua McLeod of Ashburn.

McLeod discovered Buka Ride this summer when a change in her husband’s work schedule left her scrambling to get her elementary and middle school-aged children to summer camp. McLeod is continuing to use the service during the school year.She has after school care in place for her kids but needs help getting them where they need to be in the morning.

“I’m the type of mom that can worry a lot. To be able to put my nerves at ease was really comforting,” McLeod said. “To have another mom who knows the struggles of moms who are trying to work and make sure their kids are taken care of when they can’t do it themselves.”

For McLeod, Anderson’s willingness to go above and beyond and show a little extra love, like making sure her son grabs his trumpet before school, is what makes the service worthwhile.

“It gives them peace. I know if I was a parent getting this service, that’s very important,” Anderson said.

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