The MVA Website is Terrible

Over the weekend I had to renew the registration for my Honda Accord.  While spending $135 in the middle of prime Holiday shopping season definitely was not something I wanted to do, what choice did I have?

While Maryland is obviously overcharging millions of drivers in registration renewal fees each year it seems with all that money the Motor Vehicle Administration (MVA) could afford to build a good and well designed website.  After all the MVA is gouging us with high fees.  However, a clean and easy-to-understand website is not what you get when you visit the MVA website.   Here is a picture of the MVA’s frontpage when I went to pay my vehicle registration renewal;

mva website

Not only is it confusing but it wasn’t clear where I needed to go to pay.  In the documents I got in the mail they say

Registration renewals can be done on-line at www.mva.maryland.gov, by mail, by telephone at 1-410-768-7000 or using the self service kiosk located at MVA offices.

So at least I was under the impression I was in the right place but was hoping that I would save time and sanity by paying the registration fee online.  As you can see from the above picture the website is confusing and clunky to say the least.  I didn’t see anywhere where it says “Pay Here” or “Pay Online” or anything with these types of terms.  Why wouldn’t you want to make it clear where to give you money?  The web designers for the MVA website seemed to forget it’s better to “Keep it Simple Stupid.”  Just look at all the options you have when you land on the front of the website and how poorly laid out it is.  I imagine the intent a visitor has when visiting the MVA website is to get information about vehicle and driver services in Maryland OR to pay a fee.

Whatever web design firm got hired to build the MVA website must have also done HealthCare.gov and probably charged waaaay to much money to do it too.  I wouldn’t be surprised if there were some serious security holes in the MVA website in addition to it being poorly laid out.  Let’s be serious, there are no good web designers in the government.  This is something Matt Mullenweg, the creator of WordPress, emphasized at the 2012 State of the Word at Wordcamp San Francisco.  If the creator of WordPress, what this site is built on and millions of others, doesn’t like government websites he knows what he is talking about.

This is just me complaining really but I’d be curios to know if you live in Maryland and if you have found the MVA website confusing and frustrating too?  What did you need to do on the MVA website which you found difficult to accomplish?

 

Spark EV Photo Gallery

When I went up to GM’s Baltimore operations in White Marsh, MD I took a lot of pictures of the Spark EV.  It took me awhile to go through my pictures and figure out which ones were good, and which ones could be moved to the trash.

Luckily I was the first group of journalists to get a chance to drive the Spark EV, but the sun wasn’t out when I took pictures in the morning.  I later came back to take better pictures of the later in the day when the sun was out so the Spark EV could shine in all it’s glory.  While it’s not a style icon I don’t think it doesn’t seem to be a bad looking car.

If you would like to use any of these photos on your auto blog or auto news site, you are more than welcome.  However you must give credit and provide a link to the source (this blog) if you do so.  Please contact me first as well just so I know were the images are being used.

GM starts production of Spark EV electric motors in Baltimore

2014 spark ev

General Motors (GM) unveiled the start of production for electric motors that will be equipped on the 2014 Chevy Spark EV at the automakers’ Baltimore facility in White Marsh, MD today.  (Ok, that is not technically Baltimore but it is close enough.)  This makes GM the first automaker to assemble and build electric motors in the US.  In addition the plant will also manufacture and assemble transmissions for the Spark EV.

The 2014 Spark EV will represent a big shift for GM.  While many point to the Chevy Volt’s success, the company hasn’t released a fully electric car that has been available to the public since the EV1.  We all know that the EV1 was a PR nightmare for GM and is it important to note that the EV1 was not available for the general car buying public to buy.  Oh, the times are changing though.

GM seems to be committed to building electric cars like the Spark EV and being environmentally friendly at the same time.  Not only will the GM Baltimore Operations be building electric car motors  and transmissions, but it also has a solar panel array on the Baltimore operations that generate 1.25 megawatts of electricity.  I was told this provides roughly 9% of the energy for the plant, which isn’t a lot but that is not bad either.  The Baltimore facility is also 100% landfill free.  Materials are either burned for energy, recycled or reused for other projects.

Larry Nitz, GM’s global electrification director, mentioned that the through the whole process of designing the Spark EV that GM was, and is, customer focused.  “Quiet, reliable, fun.” is how he described the Spark EV.

Having driven the Spark EV around the closed Baltimore operations facility, I do agree it is all three of those things.  It is surprisingly smooth and has good pick-up but certainly is not fast.  (Some fit and finish could use a some work though.)  It is hard to tell from a drive that only lasted 5-10 minutes and was not on real roads though.  As well you need to have a GM engineer making sure you aren’t doing burnouts or anything.  That is something a particular auto writer might have suggested.

GM has not announced official pricing for the 2014 Spark EV but has said it should be under $25,000.  With a tax credit of $7,500 it should be affordable for the average consumer putting it right in the electric car market with the Nissan Leaf.  While the Spark EV seems like it will be fighter against the Nissan Leaf, Nissan has sold 50,000 Leafs since the car’s introduction.  This makes the Nissan Leaf the best selling electric car of all time and most likely will be hard to catch-up with in terms of sales.  (The Prius does not count since it is a hybrid, which has a gas motor, in case you were thought “What about the Prius?.”)

GM has also not confirmed the exact date when the Spark EV will be available for sale.  Larry Nitz did say during lunch that only a select amount of Chevy dealerships will be selling the Spark EV.  This is the similar strategy that GM used for the Chevy Volt launch.  No word on how many GM expects to sell or what the electric motor output for the Baltimore plant is.  (I asked they didn’t say or budge a bit.)

Since this was a big announcement for GM and the area as a whole.  Maryland Governor Martin O’Malley was on hand, as well Baltimore county executives, today to show his support for GM and the push to electrify the nations’s vehicles.  Governor O’Malley even took a spin around in the Spark EV exclaiming as he got in, “I haven’t done this in 13 years!”  I guess that shows how pampered politicians are! 🙂

You can see my video of Governor O’Malley taking the 2014 Spark EV for a spin.  I need to work on my video editing skills a lot though.  (Btw Windows Live Movie Maker sucks!)

One surprising guest I noticed at the event today was Debbie Phelps, Michael Phelps mom. I guess Debbie Phelps is now a celebrity in Baltimore so she gets invited to events like this Spark EV gathering.  My guess is that Michael Phelps, Baltimore’s most famous and beloved athlete, could easily buy his mom a 2014 Spark EV (well probably like 20) without affecting his wallet too much.  She didn’t drive a Spark EV, she just rode along in one, so I am unsure if she will be buying one in the future.

All in all it will be interesting to see what is next for the Baltimore facility in terms of manufacturing capabilities for electric motors and transmissions and if this will extend to other parts of the US.  As well what is next for GM and their electric car future.

Stay tuned for more articles about the Spark EV and Baltimore GM plant.

New Vertical Business Cards

I recently had some new vertical business cards designed.  I think the design came out nicely and it is clean, simple, and fun.  Check out the design!

Vertical Business Cards

I noticed a lot of business card nowadays are double-side so I thought it would be fine to get on with the trends.  Checkout the design I got for the back:

vertical business cards

The car silhouette design came out really nice and I like the WAPA (Washington Automotive Press Association) and IMPA logos.  The main reason I am part of these auto organizations is so I look legit.  Now when I give out my cards I assume they will check since I mostly give these out to people that work in the automotive industry.

Wondering where I got these business cards designed?  Fiverr!

If you haven’t of the Fiverr, the tagline makes it easy to understand, “The world’s largest marketplace for small services, starting at $5.”

That is essentially the best way to describe Fiverr, a huge marketplace for small jobs (ome jobs are quite intricate or large for what you get.)  The idea of Fiverr is really simple.  A seller can offer services and jobs that are $5 or factors of five depending on your seller status.  Fiverr will hold your money until the job is completed and your are satisfied with the work, when finished the Fiverr seller gets $4.  Fiverr takes a 20% commission ($1) on each sale.

I found a designer who offers specializes in Fiverr gigs specifically for graphic design work.  This seller does logos, ebook covers, and of course business card designs all for $5.  They had good reviews and ratings and the samples I saw I liked, so I felt comfortable using them.  Each vertical business card design cost me $5 so I paid $10 for the entire design, which is still a good deal for getting a business card in my opinion.  The Fiverr seller gave me several options and when I asked for changes they were made promptly and to the way I had specified I wanted them done.

If you need a business card designed I would recommend using Fiverr.  There are lots of similar microgig sites out there now such as Tenrr, which does not take commissions  and Fourerr, which only cost $4 per gig.  I like Tenrr since they have a nice “Request Job” feature.

Some of you might remember that list time I ordered business card I got them from Office Depot online, which is technically VistaPrint.  I would not recommend ordering from VistaPrint as the quality was not what I expected for what I paid and the paper was pretty thin.  This time I ordered from 123Print which is a Frederick, Maryland based company.  (There printing and processing facilities are located in Minnesota and Pennsylvania.)  I thought it would be nice to support a local company and get a small test run of the cards (I ordered 100) to see how I like the design in real-life.  I will let people know what my experience is with 123Print.

Let me know if you like or dislike my new vertical business cards.  Anything you want to suggest I do differently in the future for my vertical business cards?

Stop Big Brother Maryland merges with Maryland Driver’s Alliance

I thought Maryland drivers would like to know that the organization that used to be known as  Stop Big Brother Maryland has now joined forces and merged with the Maryland Driver’s Alliance.   Stop Big Brother Maryland advocated against automated traffic enforcement measures such as speed cameras, mobile speed vans, and red- light cameras

The Maryland Driver’s License has the same mission and looks like it has been around since 2008.  There website has information regarding traffic enforcement bills and measures, cameras errors, and shows how your local Maryland representative voted.  All useful information that should help people make informed decisions whether you are for or against these automated traffic enforcement measures.

StopBigBrotherMD.org is now part of the Maryland Drivers Alliance.

Our mission is to protect the rights of Maryland drivers. We oppose the corrupting effect which automated enforcement has on our justice system. We are your source of information for everything Maryland officials don’t want you to know about speed cameras.

We support responsible enforcement of traffic laws by human officials and the proper application of traffic engineering principals to improve safety. Drivers should always make safety their first priority.

Visit the website if you would like to learn more: http://www.mddriversalliance.org/

Howard County Speed Cameras

In case anyone wants to know all the locations of Speed Cameras in Howard County, I thought I would post this list.

  • 4500 blk. Doncaster Drive
  • 4600 blk. Roundhill Road
  • 5000 blk. Ilchester Road
  • 6500 blk. Freetown Road
  • 6600 blk. Seneca Drive
  • 6700 blk. Old Waterloo Road
  • 7200 blk. Oakland Mills Road
  • 8400 blk. Savage Guilford Road
  • 9300 blk. Mellonbrook Road
  • 10100 blk. Donleigh Drive
  • 10200 blk. Old Frederick Road
  • 12500 blk. Frederick Road
  • 16800 blk. Old Frederick Road
  • Centennial Lane
  • Old Stockbridge Road
  • Vollmerhausen Road
  • 3000 blk. St. Johns Lane
  • 3100 blk. North Chatham Road
  • 4000 blk. Crescent Road
  • 5700 blk. Cedar Lane
  • 6000 blk. Stevens Forest Road
  • 6700 blk. Old Waterloo Road
  • 9100 blk. Northfield Road
  • 9500 blk. Kilimanjaro Road
  • 9600 BLK. Whiteacre Road
  • 10300 blk. Quarterstaff Road
  • 10400 blk. Green Mountain Circle
  • 12100 blk. Wood ford Drive
  • 14000 blk. Carrs Mill Road
  • Centennial Lane
  • Rogers Ave

Even though I don’t live in Howard County I think it is important for people to be aware of of Speed Cameras and their locations around the Baltimore-Washington metro area.  Citations and tickets issued through the speed camera program are only a $40 fine and there are no points added to your driving record.  Still, that $40 can add up quickly if you are not careful.

I found this list on the Howard County Government website and so it is the most accurate it can be as of this writing.

Leave a comment below and let me know what you think about Speed Cameras in Maryland.  Are they good or bad?

Hunt Valley Cars and Coffee

Hunt Valley Cars and Coffee is having it’s 6-month anniversary tomorrow morning.  My friend Gypsy Jack has told me it’s turned into quite a big and fun “gearhead” meetup for people from around Maryland and Pennsylvania.  People will even drive up from Virginia for Hunt Valley Cars and Coffee to my understanding.

The Hunt Valley Cars and Coffee not only attracts a wide range of people, but cars and vehicles are diverse too.  Classics, tuners, exotics, sportbikes, cruisers, lowriders, hot rods, etc.  You name it, someone is going to come by with it, probably has, or eventually will.  Check out some pictures from Hunt Valley Cars and Coffee.

Where: Hunt Valley Towne Centre, 118 Shawan Rd, Hunt Valley MD, 21030

When: Saturdays, 7:30 am – 10:30 am

Why: Because you like talking with other gearheads!

People usually gather in front of the closed Best Buy, since that is where the most parking is.  Most people go over to Caribou Coffee to get coffee.  Some people stay until 10:30 but I believe most are out of there by 9:30.

FYI after or before) Cars and Coffee I would recommend going to the Pennsylvania Dutch Market on York Rd.  All you do is take a right on York Rd and go for about half a mile and then turn left onto Ashland Rd.  The baked goods, donuts, and food there is AMAZING and it’s run by Amish.  Also the coffee here will be better in my opinion.  It’s a great thing to do if you have out-of-town guests or want to treat yourself.  The Amish have me hooked on their apple fritters and cookies!