DiPalma: Real-Time Data Could Help Reduce DMV Wait Times
Sen. DiPalma, who serves as the Chair of the Commission to Study the Division of Motor Vehicles, says providing real-time information about DMV wait times could help people avoid long lines.
Information is the key to cutting down on waiting times at the Division of Motor Vehicles, according to a Senate commission that today issued recommendations on ways to improve service there.
The Special Senate Commission to Study the Division of Motor Vehicles, which has been studying the DMV since late 2011, made several recommendations today, including one that the division post current waiting times for its Cranston headquarters and all its branches on its website to help customers plan for or avoid long lines.
“While there have been significant improvements in recent years at the DMV – the average wait is now down to about 30 minutes – there are still opportunities for more. Giving people current, real-time information about how and when to avoid a long line will go a long way toward reducing waiting times,” said Sen. Louis P. DiPalma (D-Dist. 12, Middletown, Newport, Little Compton, Tiverton), the chairman of the commission. “If people are able to see from home or on their smart phone that there’s a long line, they are likely to go at another time or to another location to avoid wasting their own time and making the line longer. Nobody wants to wait, and helping people avoid the wait will make the DMV a more pleasant experience for everyone, and I’d like to thank all the members of the commission for keeping that in mind as we worked.”
Providing customers with information to help them avoid waiting was the focus of several of the recommendations. Among the recommendations is that the DMV list on its website all AAA locations that provide DMV services, to help remind drivers that AAA is an alternative that can save them time. Additionally, the commission said the DMV should develop a plan to better publicize the availability and ease of online license renewal, and more strictly enforce its policy of not allowing in-person registration renewal to cut down on the number of drivers waiting in line.
Legislators should ask the DMV for monthly reports on wait times at all DMV locations, too, said the commission, to allow better oversight of the situation and provide a tool for regularly measuring improvement.
Additionally, the commission also suggested that the state request monthly progress reports on the development of the DMV’s new customer-service technology system. The Rhode Island Motor Vehicle System has been in development for several years and has experienced numerous issues and implementation delays.
The commission also looked at license plate design and technology as well as management of plate distribution, and recommended continuing the use of registration stickers in accordance to recommendations by the American Association of Motor Vehicle Administrators. Gov. Lincoln Chafee has proposed the elimination of registration stickers in the FY2014 budget to save about $280,500. Police organizations informed the commission that the stickers make it easier for them to see which cars lack up-to-date registration. Additionally, the commission learned that in New Jersey, when registration stickers were eliminated, the number of cars being registered fell during a time when the population grew, likely meaning that the number of unregistered vehicles was rising.
The commission also voted to recommend that the Department of Corrections, which is responsible for the production of license plates, begin investigating the possibility of converting from embossed plates to digitally printed plates, and that the state issue them as registration renewals come up over the course of two years, beginning in 2014. Another proposal in the governor’s budget puts off issuance of new plates for two years, until 2016. While the American Association of Motor Vehicle Administrators recommends that states reissue license plates every seven to 10 years, Rhode Island has not reissued them since 1996.
Finally the commission suggested the state begin enforcing an existing law that says the DMV is to perform random checks of registered vehicles to ensure they are covered by insurance, as state law requires.
Senator DiPalma said some of the recommendations may be put in the form of resolutions for approval by the full Senate, while those that affect the budget – the reissuance of license plates and registration stickers – will have to be discussed during hearings on the state budget.
The commission’s members include Chairman DiPalma, Sen. Frank Lombardo III (D-Dist. 25, Johnston), Sen. David E. Bates (R-Dist. 32, Barrington, Bristol, East Providence), Division of Motor Vehicles Director Anthony Silva, Joe Flaherty representing the Rhode Island correctional industries, Capt. David Tikoian of the Rhode Island State Police, Paulette Hamilton representing the Rhode Island League of Cities and Towns, Kathi O’Connor representing the Rhode Island Bridge and Turnpike Authority and Timothy Chapman as a member of the public appointed by the Senate president.