Long waits lead DMV to reopen Saturday service
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.”
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.