Friday, April 30, 2010

Budget Cuts Mean Long Lines at the DMV

(originally posted at Main St/

In San Francisco it can take weeks to get an appointment at the DMV:

Because of the state’s budget deficit, the number of personnel hours to manage California’s car culture has been reduced, while the workload has remained steady or increased. This has led to a shortage of resources at popular and convenient D.M.V. branches like San Francisco’s.

The D.M.V. processed 29.7 million licenses and identification cards statewide in 2009, up nearly 400,000 from 2008. But during the same period, to save money, the state has furloughed D.M.V. employees and closed offices the first three Fridays of each month, said George Valverde, director of the state D.M.V. “We’re losing about 15 percent of our available hours.”

The new reality of fewer open hours and a greater workload means that some problems that were once resolved quickly can now languish.


Technology has brought some needed relief: most D.M.V. business can now be done online — 9.4 million transactions were done online last year, a record, with a 20 percent increase in the first quarter of 2010, according to D.M.V. records.

But Armando Botello, a D.M.V. spokesman, said there remained a “digital divide” affecting poorer Californians who lack Internet access. In addition, Mr. Botello said, “a lot of people wait until the last minute” to pay D.M.V. fees — a situation perhaps exacerbated by the recession — and do not leave enough time to receive a license or vehicle registration renewal by mail.

Those who show up without an appointment can expect to stand in line for hours.

In North Carolina:

You don't just "drop by" the Division of Motor Vehicles in New Hanover County anymore. A visit could take you anywhere from three hours to most of your day.

It's 6:30 a.m., and people are lining up outside the DMV, hours before it even opens.

Many states have implemented furlough days for state offices. In Wisconsin a creative measure has been added in to the mix:

Titling and registration services are offered by many third-party partners such as some police stations, grocery stores and financial institutions around the state and can be found at the WisDOT web site.

Long lines and delays are happening all over the country. In Nevada:

Malone says a DMV visit that used to take an hour could now take more than three. He says the best way to do business with the DMV is to visit its web site first.

One reason service is even slower in Nevada is implementation of the Real ID Act:
Faced with stiff public opposition, the Nevada Department of Motor Vehicles has withdrawn a proposal to immediately require motorists to get a new type of driver's license. Instead, the DMV will give motorists the option of either continuing with their current licenses or obtaining a license that complies with the federal "Real ID" act.

The Real ID Act was passed in 2005, but proved to be so cumbersome and expensive to adopt, that an extension was granted. The extension expired on Dec. 31, 2009. Now some of the states that did not opt out (at least 15 states
have refused to implement REAL ID) are attempting to implement this costly and time consuming new license, at a time when they can ill afford to do so.

While DHS estimated that the implementation of REAL ID will cost states $3.9 billion, Congress has appropriated only $200 million for state implementation.

It seems that attending to DMV business online is the best way to go, if that's an option. (some states are lagging behind in technology) If you do have to go to the DMV, be sure to call ahead, especially if you live in a state that didn't opt out of REAL ID, to try to schedule an appointment and make sure you bring everything you need.

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