The Palm Desert Mayor has a weird plan to please the millennials


Sabby Jonathan, the Palm Desert mayor who voted to give the former city manager who allegedly showed photos of a co-worker around the office $300,000 in taxpayer money rather than just firing him, has a plan to woo the millennial set in the city and, clearly, the city council has a grasp of what the non-blue hair crowd is looking for in Palm Desert.

The mayor and the city are looking to upgrade its El Paseo courtesy cart to something called FRED or Free Ride Everywhere.  The current yellow courtesy cart operation costs are a little more than $100,000 per year (or 1/3 of what it takes to pay a city manager who allegedly showed naked photos of an employee around the office to go away) – which seems like a lot for a new service that offers just a bit more than shuffling snowbirds from Ill Corso to Pottery Barn during The Season.

But, Palm Desert is looking at possibly ditching the yellow golf cars in 2019, according to the Desert Sun:

The current courtesy cart, which has served about 4,200 people on average per month during the past two years, will cost the city $110,500 to fund for the upcoming year. The courtesy cart runs from 11 a.m. to 6 p.m., seven days a week, from October through May. The city owns the two electric carts. The city has a third ADA accessible cart available upon request.

FRED would mirror the courtesy cart in many ways. It would likely have the same hours and months of operation.

There’s a lot to unpack there and I put some bold around a couple of points.  First, 4,200 people a month, Palm Desert.  Sure.  I drive through that street all the time and I have never seen anyone on those carts, but okay.  And even if that’s the case, $110,500 to shuttle 140 people a day in a golf cart around the snooziest and snootiest shopping district in America is the most Palm Desert thing ever.

Second, and more importantly, let’s talk about those planned hours.  11 am to 6 pm?  Seriously?  C’mon, Palm Desert.

For his part, the mayor thinks a courtesy cart at those hours are going to really appeal to the millennial set.

“It’s kind of a free Uber situation,” said Palm Desert Mayor Sabby Jonathan. “I absolutely love the concept of Free Ride. We need to move out of the ’80s … and millennials are into this … this, to me, is simply a shuttle on steroids. It’s taking what we have and making it better.”

Jonathan said FRED would bring the city up to speed with millennials, who are the future of the city.

Yup, nothing the millennials want to do more than ride a free shuttle around the El Paseo galleries at 2 pm on a Wednesday in January.  The mayor clearly has his finger so on the pulse of millennials here that he could be accused of trying to steal the avocado toast right out of their hand.

The service, if approved, would start in 2019 and might even be expanded from El Paseo to include San Pablo or College of the Desert – which, once again, is great news if you’re a millennial who doesn’t take night classes or wants to hit up the one bar on San Pablo for the one hour it’s open while the shuttle is still operating.

This isn’t to say that FRED is a terrible idea, here it is in San Diego:

It actually looks like a cool thing.  Oh, and by the way, FRED operates until midnight in San Diego on weekends. It also operates in Santa Monica, and Venice until 9 pm and Long Beach until 10 pm, because that seems to be when people, you know, want these kind of things.

And who knows, maybe those extra hours of operation into the night might cut down on DUIs and attract tourists who would prefer to have someone else do the driving to a dinner that didn’t have to end at 5pm?

If only Palm Desert had an extra $300,000 laying around to pay for something like that.