Kenny Graham Drivers License

Esperanza Arroyo helps Kenny Graham get a thumbprint at the DMV as he applies for a driver's license.

Grousing about the inexcusable long wait times at state Department of Motor Vehicle offices, including those in Bakersfield, can be heard in homes and workplaces. Social media is on fire as increasingly angry Californians vent.

The recent Facebook posting by a Bakersfield man who waited hours to get a printout of his driving record to renew his license is typical.

“I got in a huge line to get to Window 1. An hour into that line you kind of become committed. Window 1 is ONLY to give you a call ticket and then you go to chairs. You think it’s a matter of time and your number will be called.

“As you sit and wait, despite lines out the door, two clerks will close their windows to go on break. It took me four hours for my printout and three minutes at the counter to transact my business with my request form pre-completed. It's a nightmare.

“No business in America would survive with that level of customer service. You can’t treat the public like that. To add insult, they have signs on the wall that boast about their effort to provide, and, I kid you not, SUPERIOR CUSTOMER SERVICE EXPERIENCE. The nerve!”

The main DMV office in Bakersfield on F Street has a reputation for long waits. More customer-friendly offices in outlying communities, such as Shafter, Arvin and Delano, are good alternatives. But now lines are forming in those offices, with implementation of the Real ID being blamed.

As state legislators return for their final weeks in session, Republicans are demanding the DMV be audited, Democrats are proposing to give the DMV more money to add staff and a Republican state senator wants to give a 90-day “grace period” so drivers will not be ticketed for having expired tags or licenses.

These are good steps. Another would be to require EVERY state legislator to spend a day at a DMV office to feel their constituents’ pain. But this will not solve the immediate problems caused by lack of planning.

With the federal Real ID program requiring drivers to apply in person to renew licenses or ID cards, wait times in DMV offices have exploded.

Although the Real ID program was created in 2005 to increase security and standardize nationwide licensing systems, California began gearing up for implementation last year. The issuance of new licenses and ID cards started in 2018. The Legislature approved $220 million in additional funding over five years to hire more staff and expand office hours.

Beginning in 2020, Californians will not be able to board a domestic flight or enter some federal facilities unless they can show a Real ID state-issued driver’s license, or ID card. They still will be able to use other forms of ID, such as a passport.

In addition to the requirement to apply for a Real ID in person, the application process takes longer and requires the production of more documents.

To put lipstick on this public service nightmare of a pig, the DMV has been reporting “wait times” of only 26 minutes at some of its busier offices. In reality, the DMV is only counting the time it takes after a customer receives a “call ticket” to be seen. Drivers generally must wait hours in lines outside offices to receive a call ticket.

The waits can be so long that an enterprising Bay area company is hiring out line placeholders. DMV officials confirmed they are investigating the company because private businesses cannot charge for government services. Give us a break. The fee is for lack of service!

Legislators and DMV officials – make correcting this Real ID fiasco a high priority. Do what it takes. Hire more staff. Expand office hours. Develop efficiencies to move lines faster. Give drivers a grace period for renewing licenses.

Drivers – do not go to the DMV to conduct business that can be done online. Plan ahead, don’t just drop in, make office appointments.