All-Electric Vehicles, Pay-by-Cell, Work a “Gig’, and Happy Holidays

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All-Electric Vehicles, Pay-by-Cell, Work a “Gig’, and Happy Holidays

 As you know, I’m the least PC person on the planet. I think electric vehicles are great; it’s just not my job to pay for them or to pay so you can charge them. 
I will add that the concept of all-electric cars is frankly a little batty. A plug-in Prius, Volt or any of the hybrids makes some sense, I guess, but all-electric, not so much. 
I received this from David Fairbaugh, a parking operator somewhere down South. (That probably is responsible for his attitude.)
I just got scolded for not offering electric-vehicle charging stations at a garage. This is the first request in 18 months, and we park 800 vehicles daily. I marvel at the entitlement attitude of those who buy electric vehicles. They expect that their needs will be met, regardless of cost or inconvenience. I don’t offer a gas pump at my garage, so why offer a charging station? There is more demand for gas than electric. If I’m going to offer anything, it would be something that the vast majority of parkers would want and use. If you buy electric, then know what you’re getting into. Failure to plan on your part does not create an emergency on my part.
Go, David!  Where is it written (bad choice of words) … Why is it the responsibility of the parking operator to install charging stations and then pay for the electricity so I can charge my Leaf or Tesla for free?
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There are a number of electric cars in my neighborhood.  A Prius, a Mercedes (little guy, kinda cute) and a Tesla.  They all have extension cords in their yards and plug in each night as they need. As it should be. 
The Tesla owner bought another vehicle at the same time as the Tesla. She told me that she bought the Porsche Panamera because she didn’t want her family to be trapped if the power went off.  Planning for “range anxiety.” 
If you don’t want range anxiety, or can’t afford a Panamera, buy a plug-in hybrid. You still save on gas, the whales are happy, and when the power is cut off, you can still get around. 
There is one place where all-electric vehicles might be a benefit: all-electric enforcement vehicles. 
I recently spent a wonderful day in Tunica, MS, and the GreenTech Automotive (GTA) assembly plant. Senior Director of Operations Steven Richardson gave me a tour, and I
was impressed. 
The line was just starting up with the first all-electric GTA MyCar units being readied for shipment (gtaev.com/us/cars/gta-mycar). 
I was told by some extremely proud managers at the plant that an electric car is inexpensive to run, requires virtually no maintenance, and if designed like these units, can be as comfortable as a hybrid costing thousands more. 
They let me drive one of their vehicles, and I must say, this is no golf cart. It’s comfortable, handles well, and would be great for enforcement staff in cities or universities nationwide. 
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I was in a meeting the other day, and one of those present said, “I heard a rumor that, up in Canada, pay-by-cell would take over how parking is done on college campuses.” 
I nodded sagely. I had heard the same, but in Australia. 
The idea that students, staff and faculty would use an app to pay for parking and then be charged only for the time they actually parked was alive and well down under. I was told it was easy, everyone loved it (costs less than a regular permit), and it freed up parking so there were many more spaces than those on the waiting lists. What was not to like?
Of course, you have to have a bit of enforcement — you need an ALPR vehicle cruising around checking that people have, in fact, paid with their app, but what’s so hard about that? Think of all the gates, sensors, “spitters,” permits, signs and the like that simply go away.
I was told by a pay-by-cell guy that people didn’t like these “open-ended” parking fees, because they forgot to turn them off. 
Australia, however, told me that they had no, none, zero complaints. The rates are so small that it made little difference. Plus, students are for the most part born with a smartphone in their hands, and turning off parking time was a no-brainer. 
Will it happen here in the lower 48 as it did in OZ, and as rumor has it in the frozen north? Maybe not next week, Emily, but tell me why not soon?
The “Gig Economy”  Ahh Yes – we really needed something new to worry about. For all those luddites that don’t know what it is, the Gig Economy is that part of our economy where the workers work for themselves and sell their time to companies.  Uber, Lyft, graphic artists, web site designers, consultants in many fields, musicians, writers, valets, maybe even waitstaff and cooks.
They set their own schedules, negotiate their pay, provide their own tools, and go to work. They buy their own health insurance, pay their own taxes, and live, it seems to me, a pretty nice life.  Most of the Uber drivers I meet seem happy with the ‘gig’. It fits their lifestyle. Many are young, a few are retired, supplementing their income. 
You know what’s coming next. Out of thousands, a handful didn’t get paid on time. No health insurance, egad. What about working too many hours, shouldn’t they get overtime?  Someone has to protect them. Guess who? The government, that’s who. The ‘gig’ economy has been going for decades. But it’s been below the radar.  Musicians, software engineers, valets, and their ilk have been happily working, often as second jobs, their ‘gigs.’
But all that’s about to be destroyed. Uber has brought the ‘gig’ economy out into the sunlight. And the nanny staters are ready to pounce.  Rather than let the workers and companies decide how to make this a mutually beneficial relationship, it seems (in New York, Seattle, San Francisco, and a number of other cities) that the ‘gig’ workers need to be organized, need to be protected, regulation has to be put in place, and you know the rest.
What this basically means is that the drivers for Uber will get less money because Uber will have to charge more to deal with all the rules and regs, and then fewer people will ride in Uber because the prices are too high, and the drivers will make less money. How does that make sense?
An Uber driver told me he makes between $15 and $20 an hour net. That’s after his costs for gas, insurance, etc. That’s about $40 K a year on an 8 hour day. Some who want to make more work longer hours, some who see this as a great supplement, work less. It’s not one percent money, but in a two income family (and who isn’t these days?) you can live pretty well, and set your hours, pick up your kids, be home for dinner with the family. What’s not to like? 
But mark my words.  Big Brother will ruin it. After all, we can’t have those evil owners (shareholders?) at Uber make all those billions. It’s just not fair. 
This isn’t robber baron territory. 12 hour day, six day weeks, pennies an hour, mercury and asbestos everywhere. These are ‘gigs’ that the individual decides to take based on their individual talent, time, and situation.
I’m guessing that many of the gigs are transitional.  But many are not. So be it. The marketplace is working as it should. There was a minor revolution at Uber when they began dynamic pricing, as immediately when the prices when up, the number of calls went down. Drivers reacted. 
Management has a problem. It’s hard to ‘manage’ a gig worker.  They have to be more creative. Work to the workers tempo and needs.  The successful ones will adjust and make it work.
At PT Media we have had ‘gig’ workers for years.  They write columns, they edit, they work in graphics. They repair our computers. We are a small company that can’t afford full time staff in those areas. So a couple of mothers of two, a retired copy editor, a consultant looking for a little extra, an artist with a home business, they all work gigs for us, and others, too.
I can see the day coming when our ‘betters’ will pounce. It will be a sad one for all, gig workers and employers alike. 
But its progress, right.
It’s that time of year and the holidays are upon us, and time for my annual screed on “Happy Holidays” vs “Merry Christmas.” I am saddened every time someone says “Happy Holidays.” I think it diminishes this time of year. 
I know we should strive to be politically correct (NOT) but I see “Merry Christmas” as a way of welcoming everyone, believers and non, into our celebration. The birth of Christ is not just the beginning of a religion, but it is an idea, a way of relating to each other. A way of showing love and peace. A time of setting aside hypocrisy and seeing mankind as one.
It’s a time of magic, of wonder, and of mystery. Christmas is a mix of religion and fantasy. Of a virgin birth, shepherds in the fields, visiting wise men, angels, and even flying reindeer.
I don’t see the ‘commercialism’ of Christmas. I see a time when we seek out presents for friends and loved ones. We smile and laugh, party and pray, and forgive that person who bumped us in the store, or took that perfect parking spot. When we remove “Christmas” from the holidays, we remove the reason it exists at all. I don’t see “Merry Christmas” as offensive to non-Christians but as a welcoming greeting to join in the fun, joy, and magic.
One doesn’t have to believe to be a part of the Christmas spirit. One only needs to feel the wonder and magic of this best of all seasons. Just look in the face of a seven year old, and you will know what it is all about.
When someone says “Happy Holidays” proudly respond with a smile and “Merry Christmas.” You can return to being politically correct on January 1. Or not.
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by John Van Horn
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