Long waits lead DMV to re­open Satur­day ser­vice

The Mercury News Weekend - - LOCAL NEWS - By Erin Bal­das­sari ebal­das­sari@ba­yare­anews­group.com Con­tact Erin Bal­das­sari at 510-208- 6428.

Se­lect DMV of f ices around the state will open on Satur­days be­gin­ning in mid-June as the agency strug­gles to man­age long lines of cus­tomers wait­ing to grab new, Real IDs and find­ing them­selves stuck five hours or more in some places.

The of­fices will be open from 8 a.m. to 1 p.m. on June 16, and June 23, and then, be­gin­ning in July, will tran­si­tion to the first and third Satur­day of each month. But one state as­sem­bly­mem­ber wants to know why it isn’t open­ing for a full eight hours on ev­ery Satur­day, with ex­tended week­day ser­vice, as agency of­fi­cials had ini­tially promised.

Af­ter all, the DMV re­ceived an ex­tra $ 23 mil­lion last year in an­tic­i­pa­tion of of­fer­ing the new, fed­eral ID cards, said As­sem­bly­man Jim Pat­ter­son, R- Fresno. The new form of li­cense and iden­ti­fi­ca­tion cards will be re­quired to board do­mes­tic f lights, be­gin­ning in Oc­to­ber 2020, un­less pas­sen­gers opt to carry a pass­port. The same re­quire­ment will also be ap­plied to cer­tain fed­eral fa­cil­i­ties.

Ex­pect­ing the rush to get Real IDs, the DMV asked for $220.6 mil­lion over six years to hire hun­dreds more em­ploy­ees and pro­vide Satur­day ser­vice from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. at 60 field of­fices across the state and to ex­tend its clos­ing time on week­days to 7 p.m. But, that never hap­pened, Pat­ter­son said.

“This is a very small re­sponse to the prob­lems of these huge wait times,” Pat­ter­son said. “It is sim­ply not good enough to take tax­pay­ers’ money and not use it and then when the pub­lic pres­sure starts to build, to just drib­ble in some more ( hours).”

Marty Green­stein, a spokesman for the DMV, couldn’t im­me­di­ately ex­plain why those hours were never im­ple­mented. The DMV did open on Satur­days when it started of­fer­ing theReal IDs in late Jan­uary, he said, but stopped when there weren’t enough peo­ple show­ing up for the week­end ser­vice.

The agency also hired 330 em­ploy­ees, with plans to hire 166 more to help with pro­cess­ing the Real ID re­quests, he said. And, it de­cided to bring the Satur­day hours back when wait times started creep­ing up over the past few months, Green­stein said. Some cus­tomers have re­ported wait times of up to seven or eight hours, de­pend­ing on the lo­ca­tion.

To make mat­ters worse, Green­stein said the agency rolled out a new elec­tronic kiosk sys­tem for driver’s li­cense and iden­ti­fi­ca­tion card ap­pli­ca­tions, along with a new queu­ing sys- tem that was im­me­di­ately un­pop­u­lar with cus­tomers. Rather than the se­quen­tial sys­tem it had used for years, cus­tomers check­ing in were given tick­ets with their ini­tials and the last four dig­its of their tele­phone num­ber, so no one could tell how long they had to wait un­til they would be called.

“We changed it back this week, ac­tu­ally,” Green­stein said. “Cus­tomers seemed to pre­fer the old (method).”

In the mean­time, DMV cus­tomers have found them­selves trapped in a bu­reau­cracy-in­duced pur­ga­tory.

” It’s frus­trat­ing,” said Hayward res­i­dent Chris Steen. “You wish you could go some­where else, but there’s nowhere else to go be­cause (all the of­fices) are like this.”

Steen had only been wait­ing for an hour on Thurs­day af­ter­noon at the Clare­mont Av­enue DMV of­fice in Oak­land, but had no idea when he would be able to leave.

It took Eric Uratchko two days in April to get through the lines at the Santa Clara DMV of­fice. The first day, he got there 15 min­utes be­fore the of­fice opened and waited un­til the end of the day with­out get­ting any­thing done. The sec­ond day he or­dered pizza, he said.

“The eco­nomic im­pact of this is as­ton­ish­ing,” he said. “This is a ma­jor prob­lem.”

JANE TYSKA — STAFF PHO­TOG­RA­PHER

Diana and Is­rael Her­nan­dez, of Oak­land, left, wait in line at the Clare­mont Av­enue DMV of­fice in Oak­land on Thurs­day. Cer­tain DMV of­fices will be open on Satur­days start­ing in mid-June.

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