Few parents wish they were spending more time in traffic shuttling kids to school events, birthday parties, and ballet and soccer practices. It's crummy for the environment and chews up time that could be better spent.
This spring, a Seattle-based startup called Pogo is launching an app and website to curb the need for these car trips. Pogo aims to help families create, find and better manage carpools, and provide a kid-friendly taxi service akin to Lyft or Uber.
Carpooling "is definitely something people feel like they should be doing more of," so we're going to help make it less onerous, says John Glover, Pogo's co-founder and chief marketing officer. The company hopes families who are not currently carpooling will "discover these new opportunities that they didn't know existed."
"It might be someone from their school who is in a different grade so they don't know them as well, but they're going to the soccer fields at the same time you do," Glover says.
Between 3 and 6 pm, 25 percent of the traffic in Seattle is related to school pickups and afterschool activities, according to Pogo's research. Glover, who has two teenage daughters, estimates that he and his wife have made some 10,000 trips to school and various activities.
The startup interviewed hundreds of families to learn about their carpooling habits. Glover says parents complained about juggling frequent text messages and building Excel spreadsheets to track rides.
The Pogo app will help users create calendars that assign drivers, passengers and destinations. The calendars will be easy to replicate over many weeks for repeated activities. It will include notifications to remind drivers about pickup times, and will allow them to tap a button when a ride begins and ends to enable tracking. It will also let people start, search for and join carpools in their area.
While the carpool app is launching nationally, the car service will initially be limited to the Seattle area. Pogo drivers will be rigorously screened through reviews of their driving records and reference and criminal background checks, Glover says. The company will focus on candidates with experience working with children.
Startups in California are working on the paid-ride service for kids, but haven't targeted carpooling.
"We feel like there's a lot of benefit of having the carpool aspect. It really opens up this opportunity to more than the relatively small percent of families who can afford to pay for rides for kids on a regular basis," Glover says. "And to the extent we can create more carpool opportunities, that helps us reduce traffic and greenhouse gases.
"If you're swapping one car for another, you're not getting those benefits."