Dubai: Taxis to send kids to school; why some parents are ditching the bus for cab

School Rides that’s run by the Roads and Transport Authority (RTA) and Careem, has engaged over 1,150 parents since it was rolled out in April 2023


Sahim Salim


Nandini Sircar

  • Follow us on
  • google-news
  • whatsapp
  • telegram

Top Stories

Photos: Supplied
Photos: Supplied

Published: Wed 13 Dec 2023, 6:00 AM

Last updated: Wed 13 Dec 2023, 10:06 PM

Iraqi expat in Dubai Arash Hazaq used to pay Dh800 per month for his son’s home-to-school commute. The expat’s 15-year-old spent more than one-and-a-half hours on the school bus for the 7km journey.

Fed up of the “exorbitant” rate and the long commute, Hazaq has now opted for a dedicated taxi service called School Rides that’s run by the Roads and Transport Authority (RTA) and Careem.

"I have been very happy with the service. Since we live in Satwa and my son's school is in Al Quoz, I feel it's a better idea to use the School Rides service. My son not only saves around one- and-a-half hours of travel time during each trip, but it is also cost-effective,” the expat told Khaleej Times.

Arash Hazaq's son Parham.
Arash Hazaq's son Parham.

Packages for 40 rides start at Dh500 and have a 90-day validity. The cost goes up according to the distance. Hazaq’s package cost him Dh1,300, “which I can use for pickups or drops”.

But the service is not just for school students. Briton Umar Osman moved to Dubai from the UK in August to study at Middlesex University.

Stay up to date with the latest news. Follow KT on WhatsApp Channels.

“Initially, I was a bit worried about … commuting. But with this service, I pay Dh2,000 for 40 rides. I would have had to pay Dh60 each way otherwise. It not only saves me money but offers flexibility,” said the resident of the Mira community in Al Qudra.

Umar Osman.
Umar Osman.

The school transportation service is offered via the Careem app. According to Adel Shakri, director of Planning and Business Development at the RTA’s Public Transport Agency, the service has engaged over 1,150 parents since it was rolled out in April 2023.

Adel Shakri.
Adel Shakri.

The official called it a “cost-effective alternative school transport” option which ensures “shorter travel times” for students.

In an interview with Khaleej Times, Antonio Al Asmar, general manager of Careem in the GCC, said over 50,000 school rides have been completed, with “average savings of 35 per cent per user”.

Pricing structure

Rates are based on the distance between the school and home. 40-ride packages start at Dh500 for a 2km range; and Dh600 for 4km. Mid-range packages start from Dh1,300 for 10-12km distance; while the large range ones (30km+) cost Dh4,750.

“This per-ride structure offers considerable savings, as parents are not charged for transport during public holidays or term breaks and packages are not subject to surge-pricing,” said Al Asmar.

Antonio Al Asmar.
Antonio Al Asmar.

Cost and savings

No additional charges apply if up to three children travel in the same ride.

“This feature unlocks substantial savings for parents compared to the traditional school bus system. With the ability to accommodate up to three passengers per ride, parents can purchase a single package instead of paying transport fees for each child. This benefit is particularly advantageous for households with multiple children attending the same school or children from the same building travelling together.”

He shared calculations of costs and savings comparison between School Rides and bus transport:

>> The average cost of a School Rides package for a year (considering nine months) is Dh11,600. This applies to up to three children.

>> For school bus transport, the average annual cost per child is Dh8,500.

>> For two children, parents save Dh5,400 (31 per cent savings); and for three, it’s Dh13,900 (54 per cent savings).

How it works

The School Rides service offers parents a prepaid bundle of rides.

“After purchasing a package, customers can immediately utilise it to book rides to or from their chosen school by following our standard booking procedure. We've incorporated a user-friendly toggle on the app, allowing parents to seamlessly switch from regular rides to their designated 'School Rides' package,” said Al Asmar.

The 40-ride package is designed for transportation to or from a specific school.

The RTA said the service has “attracted” 750 educational institutions in Dubai. However, parents have to coordinate directly with the school for these rides. “While taxis are commonly used for school trips at present, our service provides a more cost-effective, trackable and comfortable alternative,” said the Careem official.

According to the RTA, about 3,500 cabs from various luxury vehicles companies are deployed to run this service.

“Captains undergo a rigorous selection process specifically designed for operating School Rides. Upon selection, they receive specialised training to ensure the utmost safety and professionalism when transporting children to and from school, adhering to all safety protocols,” added Al Asmar.


More news from Life and Living