Commentary: Why we love to hate the DMV
What three letters strike fear in the hearts of every Connecticut motorist? DWI? NSA? No, the DMV, our beloved state Department of Motor Vehicles.
I had the pleasure of getting my new “verified” drivers license at their Norwalk office recently, girding myself for what the DMV’s own website promised would be a two-and-a-quarter-hour ordeal.
Arriving at 1 p.m. to a full parking lot, I knew I was in trouble. After 11 minutes in the first line, identified as “Information,” I received my number, A104, and was told to wait.
At that point the automated system was calling A70 along with D759 and a few B numbers. As numbers were called, people would scurry to the assigned window, but as time wore on, people moved from griping to just bailing out, leaving some numbers called but nobody appearing. That helped move things along.
A four-minute transaction
My number was finally called at 2:15 p.m., for a transaction that lasted all of four minutes. The clerk was pleasant and efficient.
I paid my $72 fee (set by the state legislature) on a credit card, waited another six minutes for my picture, and was out the door at 2:37 p.m.
A 'verified' license
There are 2.6 million active drivers licenses in Connecticut and 430,000 are renewed each year, most of them by mail. But every six years your renewal requires a new photo and more recently, an in-person visit, thanks to the U.S. Department of Homeland Security’s “Real ID” program.
As of October 2020, only “verified” drivers’ licenses (or a passport) will get you past the TSA and onto a plane. “Verified” means your license has been issued after you show the DMV a slew of documents — passport, W2, birth certificate, bank statement, pilot’s license, etc. — proving both legal residency and identity.
The lines will get longer
You can opt for a normal license and even have it issued at an AAA office, if you want. But as that 2020 deadline draws closer and people realize their driver’s license is really an ID card giving you permission to fly, the lines will get even longer.
My approval for a new license took just minutes because I had more than enough documentation. But anyone ahead of me in line lacking even one crucial certificate slowed up the process.
Add to the mix the thousands of undocumented aliens seeking drivers’ licenses now allowed under a new law, and you get the sense that the DMV is getting very busy.
The agency has added staff, but the offices are still jammed. The DMV says that Wednesday and Friday mornings have the shortest waits, but who’s got a job that lets them take off that much time for a paper chase?
Next visit in six years
All told, my experience at the DMV wasn’t too bad. The clerks were as speedy as their cumbersome process allowed and they even had a nice little coffee and snack stand in the waiting area.
I just am grateful this is only necessary once every six years. See ’ya in 2021.
Jim Cameron is founder of The Commuter Action Group. The opinions expressed in this column are only his own. You can reach him at CommuterActionGroup@gmail.com.