Introducing People Who Zum: Driving Change in Student Transportation

Today we are thrilled to launch #PeopleWhoZum. A celebration of the unique people who are driving change in the student transportation industry. A spotlight view of those who believe, as we do, rides to and from school impact the way children learn, grow, relate, and excel. We’ll be featuring individuals who embody our values and sharing their personal stories and perspectives. Please check back weekly for great stories starting next week. 

Community is essential to Zum, and we’re fortunate to work with a great one, that’s continuously expanding, From bus drivers, to school administrators to teachers, parents, technology innovators and policy makers. Our community is a vibrant one with dedicated people reimagining the student transportation industry. 

Ultimately, we view our work as enabling a future generation of scientists, poets, civic leaders, data scientists, musicians and more by ensuring they are in the best position possible to learn. And for us, that starts with getting all students to and from school in a safe, sustainable, and accessible manner. 

For parents and schools we’re providing a flexible, transparent, modern system they can rely on. And for the planet, we’re reducing the toxic effects of diesel bus fumes to create a more sustainable long term solution. 

Look for our first story next week, featuring a school bus driver whose kindness is now part of the school district curriculum.
Do you know someone in the industry who would be a great addition to #PeopleWhoZum? If so, we’d love to talk to you. You can contact us at


Making Student Transportation More Flexible and Transparent

This post is part of a series that dives into our vision for reimagining student transportation

The pandemic has caused us to radically reconsider education in ways we never imagined we would, with hybrid models of virtual and in-person classes and newly flexible school schedules. Now’s the time to reinvent what remains the most inflexible part of the nation’s educational system: How students get to and from school.

Student transportation impacts everything from the time the bell rings to the length of a student’s day to whether they are able to focus in or out of class. One recent study found that students with long commutes spend less time sleeping and exercising, suggesting “troubling public health implications for teens.”

Cloud-based software and AI have transformed virtually every industry. We order groceries, shop for clothes and participate in work meetings in ways that depart radically from how we conducted these activities only a few years ago. These same tools and technologies can infuse the student transportation system with the same flexibility, transparency and agility that we, as consumers, have come to expect from all manner of other services, while also offering the superior safety supported by real-time visibility.

Tech-enabled flexibility allows systems to respond quickly to unexpected changes. And if the pandemic taught us anything, it’s how swiftly and radically circumstances can change. If schools need to institute staggered schedules to enable social distancing, for example, or decide to extend the school day for students who are falling behind, they can do so seamlessly using state-of-the-art software.

In addition to technology advancements, we can’t continue to expect that a one-size-fits-all vehicle works for every student. Some students live minutes from their schools, in highly dense city environments, while others live in rural communities where they are spread out from their peers. Reconsidering the configuration of fleets, and introducing multiple vehicle sizes, can accommodate for a variety of commutes.

Tech-driven transparency 

At Zum, we believe that schools and families should benefit from the tech-enabled transparency and flexibility that have transformed other types of transportation in recent years. We believe that districts should be able to prioritize safety, achieve new efficiency and elevate customer satisfaction by tracking capacity, ride duration, on-time arrivals, driver behavior and other key performance indicators. 

We believe that modern parents deserve to be notified when their children have boarded a school bus (or other vehicle), where the vehicle is located in its transit journey and when their children have safely been dropped off at their destination. We believe that bus drivers should be able to report, monitor and track safety incidents using cloud-based tools. 

Fundamentally, transparency allows us to see and predict problems so that we can fix them. Do our children deserve any less? 

To learn more about Zum’s approach to student transportation transparency, read our full vision here.


The Future is Green

Click below to read Zum Founder and CEO Ritu Narayan’s article on the importance of creating a sustainable future for school kids.


Sequoia Capital’s Seven Questions With Ritu Narayan

Zum has the privilege of working closely with the team at Sequoia Capital since early on in our history — with the well known and respected venture capital firm investing in Zum as part of our Series A, B and C rounds. 

They’ve recently published an interview with Zum Founder and CEO Ritu Narayan here as part of their newsletter series “Seven Questions with…” where they interview startup founders about advice they have received or learned over the years.

Please check it out and let us know what you think.



Zūm in TechCrunch and Forbes today

Our partnership with Autogrid was covered in TechCrunch and Forbes today. Check out the news below:

TechCrunch: Zūm wants to use its electric school buses to send power back to the electrical grid

Forbes: Electric Yellow Schoolbus Will Try To Make Vehicle To Grid Power Work

We’re thrilled to be innovating to make school transportation more equitable, sustainable, and reliable for kids, parents and schools. If you want to learn more about our sustainability efforts please click here.

Exciting times ahead!


Zūm and AutoGrid Partner to Deploy 10K Electric School Buses to Create 1 Gigawatt of Flexible Capacity for the Grid

We’re thrilled to announce today we’ve partnered with AutoGrid to pilot a program with Zūm’s electric buses and AutoGrid’s Virtual Power Plant technology (VPP).

Please see our press release here. A brief recap follows below:

  • Our partnership will help accelerate adoption of electric vehicles (EVs) in an antiquated school transportation system that previously relied on emission-intensive diesel yellow buses. 

  • Together, we’ll deploy 10,000 electric school buses to create over 1 Gigawatt of flexible capacity — the equivalent of powering more than one million homes for one to four hours — when the electricity grid is overloaded.

  • This will not only help lower the cost of energy for school districts, but also help lower the overall cost of operating the grid. It will also help in removing expensive and pollutive “peaker” plants that are disproportionately located in disadvantaged communities.

  • When fully deployed, this is expected to be one of the largest VPPs in the world.

  • Every EV bus saves 11 tons of carbon emissions per year, which will help school districts make progress on their carbon footprint goals.

  • If deployed over the 500,000 yellow school buses transporting over 27 million students every day, the transition to EVs for the school transportation sector can play a critical role in helping communities improve air quality and environmental health for student passengers and area residents.

  • The Biden Administration’s proposed $25 billion investment in the electrification of school buses as part of the infrastructure bill provides even more acceleration for a clean future.

Exciting times ahead as we reimagine the future of school transportation. Stay tuned for much more to come!


Saving The Extra Mile

It should come as no surprise a company founded on challenging industry conventions would explain itself a bit unconventionally. Here at Zūm, we’re constantly questioning traditional ways of doing things as we reimagine better alternatives. So it’s only natural our film starts by questioning the old adage ‘going the extra mile’. We reflected on this expression and asked ourselves if it still made sense in today’s world. After all, hard work and innovation should yield less miles, not more. Less toxic fumes polluting our planet. And less time and money spent unnecessarily getting kids to and from school through outdated modes of student transportation. And in-keeping with our approach of bucking established norms, we decided to put our story in the hands of a teenage soon-to-be star who describes the benefits of Zūm from a students’ perspective.

Let’s make saving the extra mile a better measure of hard work. It’s certainly what we do at Zūm. Check out our video below and reach out if you’d like to learn more.


Zūm is What’s Next

Axios features Zūm and the shift to working directly with school districts in its latest weekly newsletter.

Read the newsletter here.


Female Disruptors: Zum CEO Ritu Narayan featured by Authority Magazine

Our Founder and CEO, Ritu Narayan, spoke with Authority Magazine about her road to becoming a female disruptor and the advice and guidance she received along the way. 

Read the full article here.


Launching Our Comprehensive Student Transportation Service

By Ritu Narayan

As the 2020 – 2021 school year comes to a close, I can’t help but reflect on what this unique year has meant for kids, parents, teachers, schools and the education system as a whole. Students and teachers have spent much of the year away from the classroom, learning and teaching virtually, making this a digital inflection point and a once in a generation opportunity to reimagine the system as we know it. It starts the minute the kids walk out their front door and doesn’t end until they are safely back at home. 

Student transportation is the largest mass transit system in the U.S., yet it’s an antiquated model — in desperate need of an overhaul. The 80-year-old ‘one bus fits all’ system doesn’t work for today’s families, nor today’s needs. 

Today we’re thrilled to introduce Zūm’s fully integrated, real time platform for student transportation purpose-built for the needs of kids and the expectations of their families. Our new comprehensive service for student transportation is now available to schools and districts nationwide.

We’ve been on a mission to reimagine student transportation for some time, and have spent countless hours partnering with districts, drivers, parents, and students to create a holistic solution that meets the collective needs of all stakeholders. The result is a fundamentally new way to transport students safely, reliably, and sustainably with increased visibility and personalized care. 

We launched Zūm to modernize school transportation, in service of solving real problems for parents and their kids. It was born out of a very personal challenge of getting my two children to and from school and other activities, while working a demanding, full-time job. We know this challenge is felt universally and generationally, and it’s what inspires us to come to work every day — to continuously raise the bar for student transportation, drive positive change in communities, and reduce the industry’s carbon footprint.

Simplifying the system for districts 

The new platform marks a significant change in our model. One that addresses systemic shifts that need to happen in operations for school districts, who can now rely on Zūm as an end-to-end resource to manage daily operations, track and plan vehicle use and driver profiles, and analyze performance and service data. Our service reduces costs for districts by deploying the best type of vehicle for each route including buses, cars, and vans. This multi-vehicle approach helps solve current industry-wide challenges like schedule, unpredictability and vehicle underutilization. 

The range of options we provide, including electric vehicles of all sizes, also reduces student commute times. And when coupled with our marketplace, the result is greater in-fleet efficiency and optimization.

Holistic support for drivers

With Zūm, every driver has access to an app, available on mobile and tablet, that provides real-time route updates, personalized information on every student’s needs, and the ability to report and resolve issues in real time. Because the entire platform is connected in the cloud, the real time visibility extends to district operations and families. This means more personalized care for every student, faster service, and quick resolution for any issues. 

Visibility and control for families

A cornerstone of our service is direct communication with families. The Zūm mobile app provides ongoing visibility into route updates, a child’s location, and the driver’s profile. Families can also use the app to share changes in schedule or pickup location, preferences, and feedback, as well as speak with the Zūm team directly at any time. More transparency, more control and better communication at every step in the process means families can worry less about how their kids are getting to and from school. This emphasis on personalized service and care is especially important for families where a child has a disability or special needs. 

Meeting the sustainability needs of tomorrow

As we look at ways we can bring positive changes to communities, an important area we’ve identified is addressing our industry’s impact on the environment. Sustainability is a core tenent of our approach and we’re committed to helping districts address the challenges imposed by current internal combustion engine bussing. Our multi-modal approach and cloud-based technology will make it possible to drive widespread adoption of electric buses, move toward zero-emission student transportation, and positively impact the planet. 

Solving the transportation dilemma for districts larger and small

This isn’t simply a vision for Zūm. These changes are happening today. The Oakland Unified School District (OUSD) is one of the first to adopt district-wide Zūm technology for all their transportation needs. OUSD started using Zūm when its students returned to the classroom this Spring and is already experiencing the benefits. 

Seventy percent of OUSD’s students using its transportation system previously spent more than one hour on a bus traveling to school each way, which has dropped to just 3% since Zūm implemented new, flexible routes. Inefficient routes led to long travel times for students and unexpected delays, which had a trickle-down impact across the district and community. For example, teachers have to slow down an entire class when a group of students are late, parents must juggle irregular drop off and pick up times, and drivers face inconsistent schedules.

Zūm’s safe and modern service has led to a significant increase in on-time arrivals, shorter student ride times, and reduced customer support calls.

“Transportation is a massive expense for our school district, and we needed a better solution that would provide enhanced safety and care, create driver efficiencies, and enable visibility into day-to-day operations with a more modern approach,” said Kimberly Raney, Executive Director of Transportation and Logistics at Oakland Unified School District. “Partnering with Zūm, allows OUSD to save thousands of hours of travel time for students, and increase visibility into our operations for parents, students, teachers, and administrators.” 

Zūm has been driving the industry forward since 2015 when we first launched to provide alternative transportation options for families. Throughout our journey, we discovered that solving the problem required a more holistic approach to the entire system. This is a big challenge and we see a huge opportunity to impact real change — not only for parents and students, but across the entire school transportation ecosystem. Today Zūm is defining a new era of safe, reliable, efficient and sustainable transportation, built for the students, parents, drivers, and districts who need it most.

As we look ahead to the next school year, we know students and parents have a lot on their minds. We’re here to take the stress out of a key part of it — getting kids to and from school. For parents and communities interested in learning more about Zūm, or if you’d like to join our team as we reimagine student transportation, visit us at If you are a school district planning for your students to return to campus, we’d love to talk. Reach out to us at 1-855-RIDEZUM.

Ritu Narayan
Founder and CEO at Zūm