SEATTLE -- Parents know all too well the feeling of rushing out of work and running late to pick up kids from school and get them to after-school activities. That commute is especially frustrating with the increasing traffic congestion in the Seattle area.
A local mother decided to give parents a tool to make it easier for them to balance work and life by building an app to help coordinate carpools.
Carly Thaler is on her way home with her kids.
“Hey kids, how was school today?” she asks her two children and their friends in the car.
Thaler started using the POGO Rides app last fall when the Seattle school bus drivers went on strike for a day.
“We have a lot of kids riding the bus and I was easily able to connect with other people in our neighborhood and set up a carpool with multiple families,” said Thaler.
The POGO Rides app was created by Seattle mom Melissa Lehman, who won a $1 million grant to launch the business.
“Parents have very few tools,” said Lehman.
She says some parents will use Uber and Lyft in a pinch but not necessarily feel great about it.
“We saw an opportunity to create a platform that helped better connect parents, fill those extra seats, take cars off the road and ease the stress for everyone,” said Lehman.
POGO Rides works much like Uber, you download the app, plug in the routes you typically take and the app connects parents with other parents who have activates in common places.
"Is it your home to gymnastics, your home to school, maybe one or two different schools depending on where your kids go and then we show you matches. We show you, other people that are headed there, too, that you may want to consider carpooling with,” said Lehman.
Lehman says parents usually virtually connect with each other on the app but also meet in person for safety before arranging carpools.
"Be a parent. Make all those smart decisions just like you would,” said Lehman.
She says as a mom herself, she wouldn’t trust a stranger she’s never met to pick up her child. She says there are lots of tools she’s built into the app so parents can feel safe.
"There’s things we can provide you to help build trust. So parents can opt into background checks, and driving record checks, which also show up as badges on their profile,” said Lehman.
Once you connect with a parent, the app provides a host of features, such as how many carpools that parents have done, and groups you share.
Parents can also reimburse each other for gas and, just like Uber, they get a notification when the carpool has begun, the route the driver takes and notifications once the child is picked up and dropped off.
“I know where they are, and the right person picked them up and they are where they’re supposed to be,” said Thaler.
Lehman says there are thousands of POGO Rides users in King County. She says as traffic gets worse in Seattle, her app is one more icon on the screen helping parents navigate the road between balancing work and life.
"There is an alternative to driving so much. If we rely on each other a little bit more, we get a little more sanity, a little more time for ourselves, our kids get to pursue more activities, and ultimately, we feel more connected in our community,” said Lehman.
Lehman and her team have partnerships with several schools in the area to create special carpool groups for each school. Those are restricted so parents need to get a code to get special access to be a part of that carpool, just another safety check that Lehman says helps parents feel secure.