An Open Letter To Whoever Is Responsible for the Mess at the DMV
I'm fairly sure that if you or I were this unorganized and inefficient at our jobs, we'd be fired.
When I renewed my license in 2014, I took the option of renewing my license for eight years. In theory, doing so meant that I wouldn't have had any business at the DMV until 2022. Well, life happened...in a good way. About a year after getting that new license, I started dating my husband. We got married the first weekend of August last summer and went to celebrate by spending a week at Tamarack.
While we were honeymooning, Idaho's DMVs were melting down. They replaced an almost forty year old mainframe server. The upgrade as meant to catch up with evolving technologies and cut down on the number of system outages the DMV was experiencing. Instead of being a fix, the upgrades created an even bigger mess when the vendor software failed and prevented the DMV from issuing license for more than a week. By August 28, ITD recommended that county sheriff's offices close their doors at DMVs until the ongoing issues could be troubleshooted. That lead to huge back up of customers needing to renew their license, so ITD provided an emergency extension to those who were not able to complete the process because of DMV closures.
Almost a year later, there are still obnoxiously long wait times at the DMV and today, when I finally (thought I) had enough time away from the office to get my name changed, I realized it's more than a software problem...and it's disgraceful.
Before you can change your name at the DMV, you have to go update it with the Social Security office. I got my number there, waited about half an hour to get called to the desk. The desk agent took care of me and had me out the door with a receipt to take over to the DMV. As soon as I got to the DMV, I had a bad gut feeling about it when the line to the door. Everyone in that line was waiting to get a ticket number to even get into the queue. It took a few minutes for me to realize that's because at some point between 2014 when I last renewed my license and today, they've done away with the ticket machine.
Now every single person has to go through a driver's license pre-screen desk to get their number printed. That desk is manned by ONE PERSON! ONE! The closer I got to the front of the line, I could tell that part of the reason that the line was taking FOREVER was because a lot of people came in hoping to get the Idaho Star Card that will be required for air travel staring in October 2020. They were showing up without the proper documents to make it happen and each of these conversations were taking 5+ minutes a person and the Star Card hopefuls were being turned away. No wonder why this line wasn't moving anywhere.
I'll be honest, I'm one of those people that cursed the entire way out of the DMV today because I was also turned away. I wasn't trying to get the Star Card (because I knew that I didn't have enough documents with my new name on them to get it done today.) I just wanted to update my regular license to my married name so that I could book my airfare for trips I have coming up in August and November. Both the courthouse and Social Security office told me that with my receipt from SS, I'd be set. The gate keeper at the poorly managed desk told me the receipt wasn't good enough and I'd have to wait at least 24 hours until the social security system updates to get my ID. That means I get to spend a second day of my five day weekend waiting in line at the DMV...and I'm incredibly frustrated about it. If I didn't have a doctor's appointment in Boise later on today, I would've tried driving to another county to see if it would've been different there.
But I'm more frustrated by seeing first hand that the DMV lines have been this long because of the a horribly mismanaged system! Clearly, the state has done a poor job of explaining to people exactly what they need to bring with them to get the Star Card but there's got to be a better answer than sticking ONE PERSON behind a desk to handle dozens of uninformed Idahoans. There's got to be a better way and I can think of a few to right off the top of my head:
- If the DMV insists on keeping this front desk model instead of bringing back the "push a button, take a ticket" method, add a second person to the desk to handle all matters regarding to the Star Card. This would free up the other gate keeper to handle those looking to take a test or renew their license.
- Get rid of the front desk model and return to the "push a button, take a ticket" method, allowing those working the windows to handle Star Card matters. If a customer shows up without the proper Star Card documentation, it's a heck of a lot faster for five people to say "no" to five individuals than one person to do the same job.
- Communicate better with the courthouse and Social Security Administration. When you get your marriage license, the courthouse will give you a flyer explaining how to change your name. They do a very good job at telling you to go to SSA first, but they don't tell you that you have to wait 24+ hours to go to the DMV afterwards. SSA doesn't seem to know that their receipts are being turned away from the DMV either. Simple communication between the three parties to get their information updated if there's a new policy in effect would save a lot of us headaches and frustration.
Those seem like solid ideas, right? But I'm a Radio DJ. I shouldn't be the one doing the critical thinking for the DMV. So, this is a simple request to whoever thought up the one person at a desk system that's currently in place in Ada County...do better. This system is unacceptable.