Follow Shuttle Express Philly on F6S

Congrats, Stephen!

This week, we achieved a milestone:

This week, our first non-CDL Shuttler attained his CDL license. I couldn't be more proud, and Stephen couldn't be a more deserving or dedicated recipient. It's not an east feat!

Pushing through this past year -- it hasn't been an easy feat at all. And I don't think we would have made it without Stephen.

We look forward to growing this opportunity into a full-time role for excellent shuttlers and awesome people like you.

Congrats Stephen!

ShuttleBee Job Opportunity (please help!)

August is always traumatizing.  We're heading into a new school year, and I'm bombarded with inquiries from people I can't help.  Some are folks I've spoken with for months.  Some are brand new, just hearing about us.

I should be so lucky that we have more work than we can manage.  So why am I so crushed?

Because for everyone one of you who reaches out, you remind me of me and my all-too-real struggle to solve this problem for my family.  August reminds me of why I started this business in the first place.  Telling people I just can't help is a miserable experience, even when I know I'm doing the most I can while retaining my favorite position of mom to a young child, and wife to an exceptionally-supportive husband who does need me to, well, be available from time to time.

So I'm asking the community for help to fill this role.

I am looking to fill a role that would be equity only (like me) until we secure fundraising.  And even at that point, we would be offering below-market rate for your time until we've achieved the milestones tied to that fundraising.

Consider this opportunity because you believe offering this service is the right thing to do. Also do this because you believe this business has potential, and that your hard work will pay off.

Consider this opportunity because you've always wanted to lauch your own business/startup.  You'll get access to accelerators, incubators and resources -- in Philadelpha and beyond.  

Consider this opportunity there is tremendous value from learning first-hand from someone else's mistakes.

I'm looking to accept help on any commitment level -- from part-time to co-founder.  If you'd like to hear more, please reach out.

THANK YOU for sharing with your network.

Here is the Co-Founder Job Rec.

Letter to Families #3: On Attendance.

Question: what if we want to pick [our daughter] ] up on any given day during the school week, how does that work? 

Here's a somewhat long summary of our current attendance process, as well as the process we hope to introduce early in the 2018-2019 school year:

You can absolutely pick up your daughter any day you choose, and we're building an app now to make this process easier.  Today, we use an app called Life360 so that parents can monitor the GPS of the driver, communicate as needed and confirm attendance -- which we validate by pictures of students at the moment, unless students decline.  

When parents want to "report" an absence from the shuttle (not necessarily from school) they'll send me and (and soon our Route Supervisor) a text, email or phone call.  Then I'll confirm that the information came from someone authorized to make the request and pass it along to the driver.

You can understand that this process is manual at the moment, and we've asked families to send this info before 2PM.  Once 2PM arrives, we try to keep our phone line clear for emergencies -- which can happen, for example, when children are not at their pickup spot as expected.

If children aren't at their designated pickup location and we don't  have a reported "absence" on file, someone from ShuttleBee will call parents to confirm.  Just last week we had a student that was in the building far longer than expected, so we called parents to confirm the unexpected absence.  The school jumped in and announced direction for the student over the loud speaker.  This process helped us to find him.

We scoured the market and couldn't find a mobile app to help us with attendance, so we're building one.  I'm not sure if it will be ready for the first day of school, but the idea is that approved caretakers can log in "absences" from their app or desktop with a one-touch step.  Because the source is validated by username and password, the driver will receive this information directly and immediately, along with confirming communication by email or text to all caretakers listed on the contact list.

We have had families pickup up students at the playground.  Even if the driver knows them by sight, we ask for direct permission by email, text or phone call from caretakers on our approved pickup list to validate.  It seems cumbersome, but in the absence of tech at the moment, it's our way to validate that there are no breaches.

Attendance is extremely important to us.  It's so important, in fact, that it's the very first tech investment that we're making -- before building an app or website to more easily on-board families, even. 

Thanks for the question!

School District of Philadelphia Calendar through 2018-2019

Here it is, in all it's glory!

If you use Google Calendars, copy this link and paste it using the "plus" sign to Add a Calendar (select URL)

If you use Outlook, you can click on the button below.


If you use a different calendar, instructions to download are below.  Use this URL:

Did this work for you?  Do I need better instructions?  Send me a note!


The real reason why we ask kids to hold hands while crossing the street

My job at ShuttleBee is to consider the simple.  Of course we want kids to hold hands while crossing the street, we just do.  

Take, for example, that time you decided to play Super Parent and bring a few friends to the park.  To get ice cream.  To walk anywhere together -- an ambition that may have seemed otherwise innocuous.

Then you invite my daughter -- who once outpaced an Olympic track contender -- and all hell breaks loose.  Leashes were useless, as A debut her stroller-harness-popping skill midway through a double-lane intersection.  And as if darting into traffic wasn't scary enough, my daughter started randomizing her adherence to my high-decibel pleas for compliance. 

Sometimes A listened, which almost made things worse.  I dare you to try and look sane as a parent, while calculating in your head the probability of "sometimes."

Feeling exceptionally qualified to write protocol on walking safety in groups, we started to disect the details for ShutttleBee.  If kids hold hands while crossing the street, and if an adult can logistically hold two maybe three sets of hands effectively at once, these kids are forming a giant Kid Chain which tail-to-tail is not only ineffective, but offers a false sense of security.

We ask kids to hold hands because "walk together in a small dense cluster so that no child is farther than an arms length away from the rest of the group" just doesn't roll off the tongue.

But maybe it should.

(Here's our corresponding video.  You have to start somewhere!)

Letter to Families #2: About tomorrow's Impending Nor'easter

I wanted to take a moment and let you know that several of our shuttlers have reached out to let me know that they will not be providing service tomorrow, should we experience inclement weather.

Because our drivers often manage multiple stops on the route, serious delays make our service ineffective.  This is especially because school officials, teachers and administrators are looking to get home safely as well, and our delay becomes their delay.

We'll do everything we can to accommodate service, but please remember that we do not manage early unscheduled dismissals due to weather.

We'll follow the weather closely and reach out if we have an immediate decision, and of course we follow all closures by the School District Calendar.

We ask that you please begin to make arrangements now, in the case that we will not provide service due to weather.

Thank you again for understanding that we want to do our very best to serve, and that safety is our top priority.

If you have any questions at all, please don't hesitate to reach out.

This is a pivot.

I've heard from successful startup founders that if you haven't had to pivot, you're not doing it right.

ShuttleBee's mission is the same; we are committed to coordinating SAFE and convenient small-group transportation for kids.

How we go about accomplishing our goal is about to change.

From Gig to FT role

We started with a mission to pay above-market-rate for driving shuttlers, $25-$35 per hour over 1.5 hour segments.  We've worked with amazing candidates who have this particular pocket of time to fill during the 2-4PM range:  Home healthcare workers.  Students.  Parents.  Foster parents.  Retired and Semi-Retired. 

We know that not everyone is looking for a FT role -- and we wanted to find those people to offer then regular, meaningful work.

But more and more, we're finding that the inconsistency in the schedule can hold our drivers back from greater opportunity, and that's not what we want to see happen.

Our strategy is still to offer above-market rates.  We just shifting to focus on FT roles.

From Childhood Education Experience to CDL License Holder

Our product is over-engineered for safety: if there's a precaution, education or system we can put in place that will improve the safety of our work, we're all in for making that happen.  It's been my job to seek out every system on the market to support our business, to develop the ones we couldn't find, and string them all together into one cohesive offering.

I'm never, ever one to say "no" to education, but when an insurance provider told us that they would require our drivers to have CDL's, I tool a giant step back. 

I was not a fan of this particular brand of Kool-aid.

I personally find the CDL intimidating, and I wanted zero part in owing a bus.  In retrospect, this sentiment might have even driven the "small" in our "small-group transportation" focus.

I was worried that the skill set needed to replace a fuel pump or use air breaks was too much of a departure from the skill set needed to kindly corral a pile of kindergartners on the playground.

I was worried that our best drivers would give up on us when after completing a complicated and time-intensive on-boarding process, if I asked them THEN to test for a CDL.

We're still using vans and non-CDL vehicles to transport children.  I was worried that since none of the vehicles we intend to use actually require a CDL, if we'd be able to train people to pass the test on a vehicle they'd likely never drive again.

And once I got over myself, I realized how it's possible that Said Insurance Company was right.

Raising the bar.  I'll work with a driver until the very end: until a safety concern arises, if parents request termination of the relationship, or if our driver decides to part ways.  I don't force attrition, which means we have occasionally worked with drivers who have less commitment to the role than we'd ideally like to see.  My thought is that the CDL licensing process will add another non-ShuttleBee layer to the credentialing process.  Which in the end game -- once we learn to target the right candidates -- could help.

Creating opportunity.  Offering free CDL training could offer a true benefit.  Service-industry jobs are actually booming in many sectors, and in many cases, we'd be sending our drivers off in a better position than when they started with us.  

Managing responsible growth. ShuttleBee is not about building volume fast, we'll only serve who we can safely serve on a responsible growth schedule.  By raising our bar, we're encouraging team-training, mutual reliance and we're able to offer benefits to one individual performing full-time work that's not possible when we split the same work across three.

Our drivers will still have experience with children, but our focus is drifting from education experience to driving experience.  To which, my daughter would likely have answered, "Duh, Mom."

Owning the Fleet.

I have the benefit of asking everyone about everything in our community, seeking advice from those wiser and more experienced than I.  It was surprising in my early days to find that very rarely does anyone decline my request for their time.  

When I spoke to an Uber exec here in Philly a few weeks ago about something mildly unrelated, I found her most inspirational advice to be the most ironic.  "Embrace the Fleet," she said.  And from my current vantage point, she is absolutely 100% right.

Persevering onward,



Downloadable calendar -- SDP Days Off & Early Dismissals

Happy New Year!

Here's to a happy, healthy and prosperous 2018!  We've created a calendar that captures SDP closures and early dismissals that can be downloaded to the calendar of your choice.

There are two ways you can use this tool:

1) Subscribe to our ShuttleBee Calendar using the instructions below and copy/past the link here:


2) You can add each event individually by clicking on the links below and downloading them to the calendar of your choice.  First, we've listed days off and early dismissals.  The second set of links are reminders on Sundays on the weeks where early dismissals/days off take place.



Closures and Early Dismissals in 1Q 2018:

January 2

January 15

February 14

February 15

February 16

February 19

March 16

March 29

March 30

April 2

Sunday Reminders for early dismissals and school closings later in the week:

Week of January 15

Week of February 12

Week of February 19

Week of March 12

Week of March 26


A Wish for Teacher.

"It's a skillset" replied Ms. Teacher (I haven't asked permission to use her name yet) when I was trying explain the difference between a Normal Adult Reaction to Playground Chaos, and the calming, organizing magic that a teacher can bring.

Our Shuttlers are -- in order of importance -- #1, fantastic and trustworthy human beings and #2 -- excellent drivers.  They're great with kids, but they aren't educators, counselors or administrators.

This is why we've started a pilot program to engage teachers in their natural habitat: the school yard.

Bringing the cost of shuttling kids down from the stratisphere depended on a few important factors -- and taking the stress out of fighting against traffic was one of them.  So for our pilot program, we engaged a teacher to stay with students for 15-20 minutes - generally on the playground -- while students are shuttled in batches of 5-to-a-vehicle or less.

We can't pay teachers what we think they deserve.  We never could.  But we did want to offer some incentive (beyond payment) to show our gratitude. 

We try to grant our teacher's wish for her classroom each month.  We don't have a plan, an organization or a limit on the gift, though I did ask that she maybe didn't ask for the Smartboard on Month #1.  So far, the wishes have been small and hopefully helpful, and all have been easily granted by parents in our community.

If you can help with this month's wish, let us know -- it's listed below.  And THANK YOU for supporting this pilot!

Letters to Parents #1

The playground is beautiful and exciting.  We want to make sure that children can take full advantage of their time --- and I assure you that it's awesome to see the kids come alive with activity.

But I need your help with something:

While we're waiting for our shuttle, we're watching several kids from yards away.  When children wrestle, hang on or climb one another, we're worried about injury.  More importantly, were concerned that children could be in compromised situations that we may not otherwise catch.

That's why I'm asking you to talk to your children about our "no contact" rule.  While children are under ShuttleBee's supervision, we're going to ask that they refrain from physically contacting other students, and know that we'll intervene if they are contacted by others.

We've started to socialize this approach, and we've had a positive reception from the kids.  We mainly wanted to make you aware.

We're obviously not concerned with innocuous activity, but we'd like to set a clear and easy-to-follow precedent.

Our ShuttleBee team members are great, but we to not have the same high level skill that your teachers will have, or years of experience.  Shuttlers are generally not educators, and we don't have context or experience with appropriate discipline.  We may not have the skill set to deal with the complexity of interactions between children, so we'd like to limit the likelihood for incident.

What's difficult is that our ShuttleBee "no contact" rule also becomes the rule for all other children that your students interact with on the playground.  I'm prepared to kindly/firmly/consistently adhere to this ask, and I'm sure other students will be adhere to it as well.

I'm happy to talk more, so please don't hesitate to reach out.

For the People who Care for your People.

We look to parents and organizations to support our position on coaching as a model.

We get behind the idea outlined in "Blink" by Malcolm Gladwell that it takes 10,000 hours to master, well, anything.  We know that Shuttlers may not yet be masters at their career, but are students, parents, artists and entrepreneurs themselves -- working to build their future.

Which is why we invest in them.

So far, we've seen that Shuttlers get lost, get a late start, go to the wrong start location.  Forget that they have a different start time.  Forget to turn on GPS monitoring.  Forget boosters, first aid kits, drop off location sheets.  Become triggered emotionally, even.

And you know what?  So have I.

Our enrolled families give us permission to coach.  This means that your child's route may become impacted, delayed, sometimes inconsistent.  And that decision to continue coaching is a collective choice.

Safety and driving excellence is our first priority, and we know that a failure in these areas may note be coach-able.  But regarding non-safety issues --  Shuttlers invest in themselves and our families.  And we will continue to be coaches and to invest in our Shuttlers

Our goal is that shuttlers will leave this role to start their own transportation companies as coaches themselves, or they'll move on to accept more lucrative roles.  And hopefully we've helped to place them.

Our approach provides an environment of learning and stability.  For the people who take care of your people, it's the right thing to do.