App service helps children Ryde to school in carpools

Ryde founder Terence Zou says the point-to-point nature of carpooling means children can leave home later and get more sleep.
Ryde founder Terence Zou says the point-to-point nature of carpooling means children can leave home later and get more sleep.ST PHOTO: JONATHAN CHOO

Local carpooling app Ryde has started a new service to help parents carpool their children to school, to rival an existing service by another firm.

RydeSchool - similar to Schoolber, which started about a year ago - aims to help parent drivers cut costs through carpooling, and give pupils an alternative to the school bus, which will require them to leave home as early as 5.45am.

With the RydeSchool option - launched about three weeks ago - parents who live in the same area and have children going to the same school will be matched with each other. They can view each other's profiles, chat and negotiate the suggested fee for the carpool.

Ryde chief executive and founder Terence Zou said he is confident that there will be sufficient parent drivers on its platform, unlike Schoolber, which did not have enough parent drivers to meet the carpool requests.

He said: "We have a big network of peer-to-peer members already, so we are not starting from zero."

About 40,000 drivers have signed up for the Ryde service, he added. He said Ryde, which started about three years ago, has been helping working adults to carpool, and getting parents onboard is a "natural extension" .

RydeSchool's fees are similar to Ryde's other carpooling services, and it helps drivers cut costs on things like petrol, instead of making a profit. For instance, a 15km journey from Sengkang to Singapore Chinese Girls' School in Dunearn Road will cost about $11. That works out to about $220 a month for a one-way trip.

While fees for a one-way journey on an 11-seater school bus are cheaper - about $150 a month - Mr Zou said the "point-to-point" nature of carpooling means children can leave home later and get more sleep.

Schoolber co-founder Charlemagne Lim said that for every parent with a car, there were about 10 other parents without vehicles on Schoolber.

At the start of the year, the app was able to successfully match only about 200 parent drivers with 400 schoolchildren, despite getting about 8,000 requests from parents. Schoolber has expanded to offer bus transport and private-hire car services as well.

Ms Agnes Ong, 38, who has an eight-year-old son, was unable to get a match on Schoolber. While she will give Ryde a try, she said: "I worry that if parents turn down the carpool requests, I'll be scratching my head for an alternative. School buses are still the more reliable option."

Adrian Lim

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on November 10, 2017, with the headline 'App service helps children Ryde to school in carpools'. Print Edition | Subscribe