Long line for new licenses
Hundreds of thousands have expired IDs, tags as waiver ends
Time is up for those with expired vehicle registrations and driver’s licenses, leading to longer lines at local renewal locations.
Gov. Greg Abbott suspended enforcement of driver’s license and vehicle registrations as part of emergency orders related to the COVID-19 pandemic, the thinking being it would eliminate the need for people to travel to local government offices. The Texas Department of Public Safety and Texas Department of
Motor Vehicles announced in December that the moratorium would end April 14, and urged people starting in February to address any expirations. Officials sent frequent advisories by Facebook, Twitter
“Now that the waiver has ended, law enforcement may be issuing citations for operating a vehicle with expired registration,” said Adam Shaivitz, spokesman for the Texas Department of Motor Vehicles, which oversees registration. “We urge anyone with an expired sticker to renew right
away. The quickest way to renew is online. You can renew online as long as your sticker is no more than nine months past its expiration date.”
Despite weeks of advance warning, officials anticipated a surge as the deadline approached and knew it was likely people would not be able to make appointments by April 14, said Ericka Miller, spokeswoman for DPS. As of April 1, she said there were 858,000 licenses classified as expired in the state system.
Those unable to make an appointment by the time their license expires can go online and request a temporary driving permit that is valid until the date of their appointment. In order to receive the temporary use, however, you must have an appointment scheduled and the license expiration cannot be prior to March 13, 2020 — the day Abbott’s waiver went into effect.
The vast majority of Texas drivers can renew licenses online, but that has not stopped a slight uptick in activity at Texas DPS sites, which still are observing social distancing and safety procedures that limit how many people can be seated in the lobby. In-person services require an appointment.
“Offices do offer a very limited number of same-day appointments,” Miller said. “These appointments are available on a first-come, first-served basis and are filled very quickly. Customers who book these appointments at the office, can then leave until their designated appointment time, so there is no need to wait in line.”
Miller stressed the best and most efficient way is to make an online appointment for a set time and day, and then only show up 30 minutes prior to that appointment.
One problem that seems to be affecting services, Miller said, is skipped appointments. In March, 28 percent of appointments — 198,000 customers — were noshows, she said, citing DPS data.
The average wait time once someone arrives for the appointment varies across the Houston area. As of Wednesday, when demand peaked at some license centers, wait times averaged more than an hour in Conroe for a renewal, but seven minutes at the Houston office on Dacoma.
Those differences in the length of lines, Miller said, could be caused by multiple factors, ranging from staffing levels to missed appointments to people showing up and standing in line without an appointment to arriving too early anticipating delays.
“Out of 231 (driver’s license) offices statewide, only 39 experienced an average wait of over 30 minutes in the last 30 days, and of those, just 11 averaged 45 minutes or more,” Miller said.
There also are significant differences in how long someone must wait for an open appointment. At the DPS office on Tidwell in Houston, the earliest appointments available were 33 days away, according to state data. At the Galveston office and the mega centers in north Houston and southwest Houston, appointments were available early next week.
People in some Dallas-area locations fared worse.
Houston-area spots were moving much more smoothly, those waiting in line said Thursday morning.
For information on how to conduct renewals and registrations online or find an appointment, go to www.texas.gov.