A Scourge for California Drivers: Hours on a Sidewalk to Renew a License

Sep 09, 2018 · 92 comments
Edgar Bowen (New York City)
I am shocked that California, a state governed by a hippy (Jerry Brown) could be so quagmired in red-tape as to allow this kind of time waste to exist. This is exactly how the NYS Department of Motor Vehicles used to operate many years ago while "servicing" NYC residents. NOW, I'm happy to report, that is a nightmare of the past. Now we can renew our licenses AND registrations on-line or by mail.
Belle H (Vista CA)
Some friends of mine who are now in their 70s, after driving for over five decades, had to go in person to the DMV to take the test over again. This is necessary for all license renewals after age 70.When they tried to make an appointment there was nothing available for over four months, after their licenses would have expired. They drove an hour to the San Clemente office, thinking that it would be less crowded there. How wrong they were! An hour before it opened the line went all the way around the building. They ended up being there for six hours! The staff was all very rude and people were exhausted and cranky. There wasn’t enough seating for everyone. It was a harrowing experience and actually very traumatizing for them. There’s got to be a better way.
jsn (Seattle, WA)
Part of the problem is CA makes ridiculously difficult to register your car. I had to make 4 trips because the forms were so unclear. I made online appointments and each time it took weeks to get a time.
Apowell232 (Great Lakes)
May I suggest a RADICAL idea. Instead of politicians indulging in grandiose dreams, start asking your state employees what THEY think should be done to improve their jobs and state government in general. It's frustrating to be stuck with extremely outdated computers or have a long line of angry customers to serve because your department is understaffed.
Tired of hypocrisy (USA)
It is so "republican" to have people wait for a license or a license renewal. Drivers should just drive and if stopped by the police for an infraction or involved in an accident just tell the officers they are licensed and are legally allowed to drive in California. You know just like people do with citizenship at the polling places!
Shamrock (Westfield)
@Tired of hypocrisy Brilliant. Nailed it. Turn out the lights. Case closed. Best comment I’ve read in the Times since the comment sections started. You get a A+++
Tired of hypocrisy (USA)
@Shamrock - Thank you
George (Corte Madera, CA)
Ironic. The DMV sends you a license renewal two (2) months before expiration and yet the earliest appointment at the three (3) closest offices is also three months (3) out. Ergo one will be driving on an expired license.
GR (Berkeley CA)
Do people commenting doubt the truth of this article? Just because you may have had a good experience at the DMV or you haven’t had to go there for years doesn’t mean these interminable waiting times aren’t happening now. Right now there are no appointments available online within 30 miles of my home—for any time in the future. Thank you to those who’ve commented that having to go to the DMV in person doesn’t mean you are a flake. Eventually one has to go in person because of age, theft of a license, registration snafu... whatever. Let’s check the moral superiority. The waiting times are absurd for any US state. Something else that is not mentioned in this article is the “secret”DMV office located in a legislative office building in Sacramento. Guess what? It’s not open to the public but out state legislators and staff can go there. https://www.sacbee.com/news/politics-government/capitol-alert/article216...
JR (Chicago, IL)
This is nothing new. I left my home state in 1995 and, even way back then, going to the DMV was torturous. Just as bad as the lines (if not worse) is that they are not conveniently located. Here, in Chicago, I can easily renew my license on my lunch hour, as there's a location in the Loop. In California, when my wallet was stolen, I had to take half a day off of work.
derogers31 (Los Angeles, CA)
I received my notice of drivers license renewal two months before it expired. I immediately called for an appointment. The first available was two months AFTER my license would expire. I tried another office and the earliest there was one month AFTER my license would expire. I ended up spending 4.5 hours to renew my license. Appointments are not the problem. And the Real ID process was speedy. That said, the DMV should immediately spend some of its emergency budget on shade shelters and free bottled water for those forced to wait outside for hours. Making people wait in the hot California summer sun is inhumane.
John Moore (Claremont, CA)
I sure don’t know where these horror stories are coming from. Last August I went to the DMV with no appointment, got right in, took my tests, and was out in no time at all, new Real ID license arrived within two weeks. Very pleasant experience, employees very professional.
DNS (Central CA)
Remember, this is the state where a DMV worker was found to daily sleep on the job for 6 or 7 hours. Her supervisor knew about and said it wasn't a big deal. When it became public, she got a reprimand. Pretty strict huh.
Gino G (Palm Desert, CA)
I live in CA. I haven’t waited in a DMV line in years. It confounds me why anybody waits in these lines. The DMV allows anyone to make an appointment. With just a small amount of advance planning, a person can timely schedule an appointment to do just about anything. There is no need to wait in these lines ! Whenever I see an interminable line, I immediately check into alternative ways of accomplishing what I need. Invariably, I figure out a way. For reasons I find inexplicable, some people just see a line , and then go wait, wait, and wait in it as if time had no value. I see people waiting in their cars in a line to get gas when a pump across from them is empty. Someone once told me that if I ever wanted to hire someone, first follow them and watch how they get gas. Whether a person blindly accepts a large inconvenience or seeks an efficient alternative says a lot about them.
Shamrock (Westfield)
The Real ID rules will display for all to see how many undocumented people live in the US. My relatives have insisted for a decade that the number of undocumented was widely overstated. Now we know they were just repeating liberal lies.
Megan (SF )
Sounds like the problem's not the state's fault at all. Rather, it's the racist crypto-fascist Real ID program imposed by the Feds. A driver's license should be just that: a document showing the bearer is licensed to drive. I admit that I don't know the detailed history of the Real ID program. But it seems to be heavily favored here by obviously racist, anti-immigrant commenters. I find this predictable but bizarre. Who would have imagined that one day, Americans would be required to carry what is in effect a national ID card - and the system would be supported by people who may once have fit the label "conservative"? A federally-imposed national ID card which a Americans must have on their person at all times. Proof that if conservatives ever cared about liberty, they don't anymore.
Shamrock (Westfield)
@MeganThe real ID proves how many people have no proof of their own identity. If that’s not a problem, nothing is a problem.
Spaulding (East Bay)
Actually it is bad planning and bad service by the state of California. The Real ID act was passed in 2005 so clearly the state knew this was coming. In today's world I don't know how you can justify allowing undocumented folks to board an airliner. And not racist as California allows the undocumented to drive, just can't give those folks a real ID. Immigration reform with pre screening and document certification before entry would solve this.
Andy (Salt Lake City, Utah)
Technically speaking, every Microsoft computer runs off DOS. Go to your start menu and type "command prompt." There's DOS. There's no OS function you can accomplish in Windows that you can't accomplish in DOS. Windows is essentially just a GUI (Graphical User Interface) that automated a bunch of common tasks. DOS is running the show. So what's the complaint really? Complaining about the DMV is like complaining about the subway. Everyone does it but few can tell you how to fix the problem. I'm sure Real ID's aren't helping but that's a side note. The computer software isn't necessarily the problem either. Old doesn't mean bad. If you have uncomfortably long wait times on a regular basis, something is wrong in the system flow. Something about how you're trying to serve the customer is messed up. I think the DMV simply needs to flowchart their entire process from start to finish. Why are citizens even required to show up in person to address routine tasks? Real ID people need to show up in person but where's the rest of the traffic coming from? Sounds like the problem is more management than government. The DMV doesn't know what's going on so they can't respond appropriately.
Bob (Portland)
The state of California just wants potential new drivers to get accustomed to the traffic.
GreenEyesCA (Sacramento)
True problems with CA DMV primarily have been caused by implementation of Real ID - bad processes and requiring many more people to go into a DMV office that would have otherwise been able to renew oonline - like me. My license was up for renewal this spring and I decided to get the Real ID version although the online renewal for non-Real ID drivers license was also an option. I booked an appointment, brought required paperwork (original social security card, utility bill and passport). The appointment took 3 hours. I got a call back two weeks later to come back so paperwork could be scanned. I went in with no appointment and it took another 3 hours - 10 minutes of actual work and the rest waiting. Received a temporary license good for 60 days. After waiting 60+ days called and was told I needed to go in again as my application was "stuck" and it couldn't be resolved any other way. As I was now an unlicensed driver I immediately went to the nearest DMV and waited another 4 hours and told the issue was resolved but she didn't see any reason it was "stuck". Finally received my Real ID after 10 hours in DMV offices and 110 days since my first appointment. This is NOT a political issue (Dems v Rep) but a process / management issue. CA is still a fabulous place to live and I invite those that don't like it to move elsewhere. CA is on the right side of many issues that plague our country and the world.
Still Waiting for a NBA Title (SL, UT)
Meanwhile in Utah....I got a letter in the mail saying that I could renew my drivers license online at a government website with the provide pin number and a $20 fee. I was then able to print out a temporary license, which I didn't really need because my existing one had yet to expire. I got my new license in the mail about a week later.
Voter (Chicago)
Some states do this a lot better - our Illinois DMV actually works. The technological modernization forced by Real ID appears to have greatly streamlined the whole operation. Illinois, like California, fought Real ID for years, but then gave up and embraced it. I recently renewed my drivers license at a suburban Chicago office, and I was in and out in about 20 minutes. No appointment necessary. Lots of people eager to help, with modern computers working efficiently. We seem to be doing what California, Texas, North Carolina, and Connecticut cannot. (Note both "red" and "blue" states on this list of shame.) One difference in Illinois is that our elected Secretary of State runs the DMV. If people were waiting hours out in winter's snow, they'd express their displeasure directly at the polls. Currently the Secretary of State (D) and the Governor (R) are from opposite political parties, which we seem to be OK with. Having the person in charge of DMV be a directly elected official, seems to matter.
Spaulding (East Bay)
very true. I just moved to California from Illinois and couldn't believe the difference. Jesse White could teach California how to do it right.
Jiro SF (San Francisco)
I live in San Francisco and have been going by the DMV on Oak and Fell for about 27 years. There have been long waits inside the building during that time. For at least 10 years the lines have extended outside and the wait times increased to the 2-3 hour range. This was a problem long before REAL ID came up. It could be solved by opening earlier, closing later and being open on weekends. This is not difficult to understand, and just requires money. The thousands of hours wasted waiting every day by people trying to abide by the law is symptomatic of governmental failure. It is obviously easier to just drive with an expired license... I don't understand the resistance by Gov. Brown to the audit of the DMV. I think it reasonable that the DMV should be able to serve folk with an average wait time of 30 minutes or less. Does the legislature have to pass a law to that affect? Currently the DMV in SF is open 8-5 five days a week and 9-5 one day a week (53 hours). Being open Saturdays started this year. Expanding hours to 7am to 8 pm M-F and 7-5 on Saturday would be 40 % more hours and almost certainly eliminate the outside wait lines. Hire more staff.
Stephen Shields (Concord, CA)
As my license was due, I went on line and made an appointment in Concord, about 20 minutes from my home in Walnut Creek which had no appointments before my birthday. I got there at 9:15 for a 9:20 appointment, there was a long line for people with no appointments but only one couple in front of me in the appointments line. They sent me to another room to fill out the application on line and then I waited maybe five minutes in another line. The woman could not find my application and asked me to fill it out again on paper and then I went back to the first room to take the test. I passed, picked up my temporary license and was out by 10 a.m. Everyone was very nice, friendly and polite and I was in and out in 45 minutes. My advice to everyone is to make an appointment a couple of months before your license expires.
mikecody (Niagara Falls NY)
@Stephen Shields While an excellent idea, it will never fly because it relies on people taking personal responsibility for things rather than blaming the government.
Erin F. (San Luis Obispo, CA)
@mikecody an appointment is not a guarantee that you will be in and out quickly. I made an appointment, and only was told after still waiting two hours to get a new drivers license that the computer system had gone down earlier in the day and thus had to wait for all those folks to get processed.
mikecody (Niagara Falls NY)
@Erin F. while not a guarantee, it is still true that you have a better chance of getting in and out quickly with an appointment than you do without one.
ann (Seattle)
"The D.M.V. has laid much of the blame for the escalating delays on the new Real ID program being imposed by the federal government, part of an effort to ramp up airport security. “ It takes a lot of time and paperwork to test each applicant’s vision, driving ability and knowledge of driving rules. California decided to issue driving permits to the undocumented, and were jammed with applicants. As of April, the D.M.V. had issued over a million licenses to the undocumented (and this number does not include the ones who failed the tests.) Part of the reason the D.M.V. has long waiting lines is that it is trying to accommodate the undocumented as well as citizens and legal residents. Congress passed the Real ID Act in 2005, partially because we have so many undocumented people living here. Since our country does not have a national identity card, and, therefore, relies on drivers licenses for identity to board airplanes, etc., Congress wanted drivers licenses to reserved for those who could prove who they were and for those who were in the country legally. The implementation of the act was delayed for years, but the federal government has been warning states, for the last few years, that they needed to start doing so. The California legislature was well aware that they would have to start implementing it. They just did not bother to plan for it.
Liz (Alaska)
In 1999, I waited seven hours in line at the D.C. DMV. They didn't even have a waiting area or pull a number; one had to stand in line to get to a teeny weeny portal with two employees behind it. Two years later, D.C. revamped and privatized the system and I was there maybe 30 minutes. Huge waiting area, multiple stations, and a number pull! Wow. If D.C. can do it, so can California.
Ned Netterville (Lone Oak, TN)
CA is the last remaining state in the USSR.
Meena (Ca)
What we noticed when we went to get our real ID's at the local DMV was that most of the folks who were supposed to be working were simply strolling around the office. The lines were long and everything was remarkably slow. When it was time to close office, we noticed that every single person waiting outside to get into DMV was ushered in and gosh, the process simply speeded up exponentially. While stupid people like us waited hours, those folks that intelligently came a few minutes before closing, got their work accomplished at lightning speed. It sure seemed like, to those folks at DMV, it paid to slow down stuff on purpose so as to make overtime pay daily. Certainly this is government at its most inefficient and worst.
Thomas (SF)
A criminal enterprise comparable only to the major US airlines for its dedication to cheating its customers.
Mbr (NVA)
In Texas, the situation is almost same as in California. Recently, one of my friends went into the Resenberg, TX office of Dept. of Public Safety (license office), and it took almost a full day (9:00 a, tp 5:30 pm) to get a license renewed.
bill d (NJ)
The DMV here in NJ is much different than it was when I was growing up (there was a funny commercial where going to the DMV was used as a horror story around campfires). The streamlined a lot of the processes, put in modern equipment (for example, stupidly using Polaroid pictures instead of digital cameras, which a lot of DMV's are still using), and they also changed the user experience with offices going private, the DMV was notorious for nasty workers and an environment where no one wanted to take on the public sector union representing them, despite the union itself admitting they had problems. This despite the fact that they centralized a lot of the DMV services into regional centers. It can get crazy at times, Saturday mornings, but most of the time it is relatively quick.
john clagett (Englewood, NJ)
Deploy more human resources, and the wait times will shorten.
Scott (Charlottesville)
WaPo writer has to stand in line at the DMV. Out comes a story about the "bigger issues" of state governance philosophy, size of government and the crisis in Western Civilization ... Let me give you one more fact---my wait in Virginia was 3 1/2 hours. Now how does that fit into your red-state blue-state decline of civilization narrative- narrative-narrative?
Chris Anderson (Chicago)
This just amplifies the inaptitude of Democrats. Great article.
Jus' Me, NYT (Round Rock, TX)
@Chris Anderson And Republicans manage government so well, don't they? Sure drive up debt, they are really good at it, then the Dems salvage the economy and the budget. You paint with a really, really broad brush. Don't be so foolish.
Paul Ahart (Washington State)
As a Washington State resident, I haven’t had the displeasure of trying to get a California license, but this past July did get a taste of it. A family friend, an American who had lived in Thailand many years, was now back permanently, and needed to renew his license. I generously offered to take him to the Concord, CA DMV. We arrived at 10am and he finally staggered out at 4pm. The incoming line still stretched out the door. Outside temperature hit 100F that day. We were told, “You should arrive by 7am if you want to get through in a couple of hours.” Ugh!!!
Nreb (La La Land)
The state that embraces an activist government is fumbling one of its most basic tasks, being useful to its citizens, that is!
George S (New York, NY)
"...to serve as guides through the bureaucracy...", for the bureaucracy is supreme, and it's needs and priorities are superior to the citizens, or so it often seems. California may or may not, depending on one's views on any particular issue, come up with good ideas, but as the old saying goes, the devil is in the details. Creaking, bloated and unaccountable bureaucracies can thwart even the best intentions, as seen here. Of course, we cannot not, MUST not allow an audit to show the citizens how bad it really is! It is absurd, also, to blame Real ID for this story; that requirement has been around for over a decade, yet the "best and brightest" state has just kicked the can down the road - were that not the case NO state department, like MVD, would still be using green screen DOS computers - no one, but no one, is to blame for that other than the powers that be in Sacramento. And were this any where else, many of those California Democrats would be screaming "racism" in outrage that the "poor and immigrants" are so negatively impacted by this obscene ineffectiveness of government...botching voter registration, allowing citizens to impact their jobs and finances, etc. just to wait for sclerotic government to fulfill a simple renewal task.
Jim (Memphis, TN)
The DMV is what healthcare will look like if the government takes it over. There's plenty of funding from the license revenue. It's just poor management and unmotivated employees.
Jus' Me, NYT (Round Rock, TX)
@Jim Obviously they should consult you, you have all the answers. Funny how every other country with government financed health care doesn't have the problems you ascribe to it. And if so, at least one can get help. Better a wait time than a dead time.
Ma (Atl)
As much as the NYTimes loves to embrace CA for it's large government and 'progressive' policies, the state is a failed state. Anyone with any way of leaving does so once their kids hit school age, unless they are a part of the uber rich. And even some of those are starting to wonder if their views of the ocean are worth it. Taxes are high, government employees make up a large part of the working public, and inefficiency abounds. There is no country on the planet that has found large government increases efficiency; government by definition is inefficient for 2 reasons - 1) Bureaucracy and paperwork = work, 2) you know you cannot be fired for lack of effort, competence, or capability.
Jus' Me, NYT (Round Rock, TX)
@Ma Failed state? The sixth largest economy in the world? It was only tenth when I lived there in the 80's and 90's. Oh, yeah, failure everywhere. Problems? Of course. Show me a location without them. Some places can't retain high school or college grads, I could make a long list of third world traits of government here in Texas. You and your radical right mantra of "failed state" reminds me of when I lived there and worked for a national company based in Illinois. They were always poking fun at us, but where did they always love to come for conferences? Yup.
Megan (SF )
A bit of perspective on this story. I've renewed my license twice since moving permanently to CA in 2006. The first, I did it by mail. Recently, I did it online. I haven't been in a DMV office in 12 years. The DMV website is easy to use and very comprehensive. Obviously, people whose dealings with the DMV are more complex than don't have things this easy. I sympathize with their indignation. My nearest DMV office is a pretty dismal place. Last time I was there, it was rundown and very noisy - a rotten place to and, I imagine, not a very pleasant workplace either.
Ososanna (California)
@Megan That will change as you age. At some point you will be required to report in person for a vision test, may have to re-take the written test, have an updated photo taken, and even take a driving test. It happened me when I turned 60, and could happen again as driving skills supposedly decline (they do decline or some but not all, and at different ages).
Ro Rarout (Hokkaido )
I’m a DOD employee and have been overseas for several years. I have renewed my CA license online twice. Easy day. I’ll have to do it in person next year. Hopefully it’ll go smoothly.
Annie (Chelmsford, MA)
Not much different than here in Massachusetts. Waits can be as long as 4 hours! Now here in MA we need to prove our citizenship, bring documents to prove such, some of which are old or lost and we are turned down. This at the age of 82, have been driving since 18, have a n independent military ID, still not enough. But even before this requirement to prove citizenship I have spent hours waiting to renew my license. One of the most frustrating things to ever have to do for me is sit on a hard bench, if I'm even lucky enough to get a seat, and waste precious hours as I wait - and wait, and wait. Time that could be better spent in pursuit of worthwhile activities.
jackp.usa (OC Md)
I renewed my MD license online, my optometrist submitted my eye exam electronically, then I filled out the forms online, paid by CC and they mailed the new license. No hassle
James (San Clemente, CA)
The DMV seems to operate a bit more quickly the further away you get from big cities, but in my neck of the woods you have to plan on at least two hours, even if you arrive for your appointment on time. If you have a special problem of some sort, plan on an all-day experience. Still, as a previous resident of Washington, DC, I've seen worse -- much worse.
Tiateri (Los Angeles)
You can make an appointment online with the California DMV. I've done that, showed up, and never waited more than 10-15 minutes inside.
Curmudgeon51 (Sacramento)
Most transactions with the DMV can be done online or by mail. I have been driving in California since 1968 and have only needed to go into DMV maybe 3 times, once to get a disability placard for a relative. The big thing now is getting the federally approved "Real ID" necessary for boarding domestic flights after 10/1/2020.
RCudlitz (Los Angeles)
100% the lines are bad. It is also true, in population dense areas you have to book appointments weeks in advance. However — if you're willing to wait in line for hours, you might as well take a road trip and go someplace else. My closest DMV office is Van Nuys, which is a nightmare. When my son needed to take is driver's license test the wait for Van Nuys was 6 weeks. We booked an appointment in Oxnard — an hour away — one week out. He did the test, we went to lunch, bought some strawberries and had a lovely little adventure. Until government agencies run by bureaucrats of all stripes give two figs for the population they serve and invest in modernization, it is our responsibility to find the best way to manage our time and make the system — lame as it is —work for us.
Mike (Somewhere In Idaho)
Speaking as an ex Californian I watch this State slowly devolve into chaos. Governing there has become one of their main centers of commerce. I really wish them well because just like North Korea their failure causes their neighbors to have grave concerns that those who can flee will.
david Brown (Los Angeles)
I live in Downtown Los Angeles. I renewed my driver's license 2 months ago. I signed in, entered my details on a computer, had my photo taken, did the simple vision test and took the driving knowledge test (also on the computer). I was in and out in 90 minutes. NO lining up in the sweltering sun. NO cursing the DMV. In fact I praised the staff for their courtesy and efficiency. How did I do it? I BOOKED AN APPOINTMENT!!
Philip Viana (Oakland, CA)
@david Brown Wait times aren't as much of an issue when you book an appointment. The problem is that, at my local Oakland CA DMV, the next available appointment isn't until November 28th. I recently lost my wallet and have to go to the DMV ASAP to get a replacement license. I'm not going to wait two and a half months. So, I have to take a half day at work to get this done (last time I was at the Oakland DMV to register a used vehicle without an appointment, I was there from 7am to 12pm).
RichardHead (Mill Valley ca)
My recent visit to DMV Ca, was 4 hours wait. I wanted a copy of a ownership paper on a car. It would have been 6 weeks for an appointment and the slip was needed in 1week. So, 4 hours of waiting. Interesting, 16 stations only had about 5 working all afternoon. I think had all station been working my wait might have been 1 hour.
Momo (Berkeley)
The problem is that the DMV doesn't send out the renewal notice in time to get an appointment before the license expiration. I will have to take a day off from work to go to a the DMV office to get my drivers' license renewed since I've renewed mine without an office visit the last two times. This has to change!
mikecody (Niagara Falls NY)
@Momo Is not the expiration date printed on a CA license? Can one not simply read the license and make an appointment accordingly?
LawyerTom1 (MA)
To shorten wait time do not go to a DMV office without an appointment. Appointments can be made online. It works quite well.
Doug Sturgess (Irvine, CA)
That doesn't work for a lot of people. If you've lost your license, for example, you can't wait eight weeks for an appointment.
Tim (SF Bay Area)
Yes, I’m sure CA is struggling with DMV horror stories, but what state doesn’t?? When I lived in MA, there were plenty of examples of long lines at the RMV (aka “The Registry”). In MA, as is also the case in CA, the opportunity to do tasks on line makes things work very smoothly and quickly. Expanding the number of tasks available to on line customers could be very helpful.
kathleen cairns (San Luis Obispo Ca)
A trip to the DMV is a nightmare, but it isn't that much worse than it was thirty years ago, when I waited for two hours in line. You can make appointments, as this writer notes. Today I never go there without an appointment. Sure, it takes a month or so, but you save hours. Additionally, many people have to go to the closest offices, and LA is a disaster no matter what you want to do. But there are many smaller towns in the area, and these DMVs are much less crowded, I've found.
Jason McDonald (Fremont, CA)
As a Californian, I fear any trip to the DMV. A few years back I lost my license and it was a complete fiasco. Something like three months to get an appointment, or show up at 4 am and spend nearly an entire day (fortunately, I ultimately found my license after driving without it for a few weeks). This is the face of Democratic socialism in our state. This is the face of letting the government run more and more things. And yet our wacky voters want more of this, not less of this. We get the government we deserve in California, especially when we do not connect the dots. All hail Governor Newsom, who will bring us more taxes and less effective services. Book your tickets to Venezuela today, oh - why leave? He'll bring it to us.
Megan (SF )
This comment differs radically from my own experience replacing a lost CA driver's license. This situation occurred maybe a decade ago. Note that I don't remember when. That's because I did it all online, and had my replacement license shortly. So quickly, in fact, that I already had the replacement license when the one I'd lost arrived in the mail. Thank you again to the Delta employee who found it on the floor in the security area in JFK and mailed it to me. And to the DMV, for making all this so painless. Plus, for once the ID photo that's on my license came out great. (It still looks like me, too, though noticeably younger.)
Sharon (Los Angeles)
@Jason McDonald. Thats just not true...there are many dmvs in california. Go to a less busy location. im in LA and instead of going to van nuys, i went to winnetka. Was done in 1 hour: got two kids their permits without appt. Easily made appointment for two kids to get their licenses. All it takes is a little foresight....just the tiniest bit. As for the id thing....i do not know about that.
aoxomoxoa (Berkeley)
@Jason McDonald And you would prefer to have a privately owned, for profit corporation, be in charge of the security of the drivers license and voter registration processes? Apparently your losing your license, which seems not to have been the fault of the state government, leads to an indictment of the Democratic Party. Fortunately, as demonstrated at the national level, Republicans have shown that only they know how to run things.
Greg R (San Francisco)
This article didn't mention the companies trying to profit from government agency disfunction, selling DMV appointments online for 25 dollars. How much has this practice disrupted the appointment system? It's nearly impossible to get an appointment through the official DMV website, as there are only a few slots available at the end of the three-month window the site allows you to choose from.
Momo (Berkeley)
Selling DMV appointments should be illegal!
Mike (New York)
This is because of California's opposition to the Real ID Act. They had 15 years to fix their drivers licenses but were more concerned with protecting people committing identity fraud and illegal immigrants in general than complying with the law.
Paulie (Earth)
Mike, yeah that’s the reason, the “illegal” immigrants! Did you just return from a trump rally?
Paul King (USA)
Let's get REAL. As in REAL id. A lot of the extra traffic at the CA DMV is for REAL id. This article does not emphasize that enough. It prefers to bash Democrats in CA. So, here's what was omitted. If you have access to the internet - home computer or your phone or pad - hop on the CA DMV site and, like me, renew your license or your registration in about 2 minutes. If you want the new REAL id, you have to go to the DMV in person and suffer the lines. But, wait. Literally. If you have a passport, you can fly without the REAL id - anytime past the 2020 deadline for getting a REAL id. For the time being, getting a passport is easier than the DMV experience anyway if you want to try that. And, if you typically don't fly, wait a couple of years till the rush to get REAL id dies down. So…Wait! Like I'm doing - I have a passport and I simply renewed my license on line a couple of months ago. I got the regular license. I'll get the REAL id with my next renewal five years from now. When the system is better and rush goes away. Wait.
Doug Sturgess (Irvine, CA)
Good for you. But did it ever occur to you that some people can't wait? What's your solution for people that lose their licenses, for which on line replacement is not available? Wait eight to twelve weeks for an appointment and drive illegally?
Mrs. Santore (Oklahoma City, OK)
Lived in SF for 20 years. Always took advantage of the "make an appointment" feature at my local DMV. It was a breeze. Don't they do that everywhere CA?
Mike L (Westchester)
I currently have an updated NY drivers license that is compatible with the new TSA requirements and I didn't have to go to the DMV in person to get it. I'm not sure that it is true that you must renew your license in person. Guess I'll find out next year when my license renews.
bill d (NJ)
@Mike L: NJ is fully compliant with real id, has been for years, and you are required to go in person to renew it, they have to check your proof of id again (the point system, where the old license gives you a lot of the 6 points I believe). Allowing you to renew it without going in means no one has validated your information.
Howard (Nash)
Services at the California DMV are a human obscenity. As someone who works in NY and in L.A., I recently renewed a Ca car registration. It's now been six weeks- my and payment is still not even in their system. I'd say more, but the NYT has civility rules regarding public comments.
The DMV is one of the first official offices a new resident faces and it is a freakish, nightmare, Kafkaesque hazing. Combined, I think my family of four, new the state, put in a good 40 hours at the DMV, and one of my daughters still does not have her license. It's insane. As I was standing there last time, I noted that there's a sign behind the clerk that says it's a federal crime to threaten a government worker. I can see why they put it there. I'm pretty mild-mannered, but I was ready to explode. The system needs to be fixed ASAP!
Lila (New York)
It recently took me 2 hours and 45 minutes to renew my license in NYC, despite having all of the proper paperwork and documents with me, and having shown up the minute the DMV opened. This was after having given up the week prior - I had waited an hour and a half with no estimate about when I would be seen. This is one thing for me as I have a job that allows some flexibility, but for those with hourly jobs how can they be expected to navigate that wait? One more reason requiring ID to vote is a horrible idea.
Ivory Tower (Colorado)
A Sanctuary state granting illegal immigrants USA driving licenses. a long line at the DMV is just the beginning of the chaos a California Open Borders policy will create for Californians.
NemoToad (Riverside )
The problem is the DMV buildings themselves, they were built only to hold so many people. The parking lots are small, the waiting area inside is small and only has so many chairs. The population has grown since those buildings were first erected. The DMV needs structures that are much larger and created to help lines move. Signage would be nice! There is only so much you can do online. And appointments are very much backlogged. More employees would help in the short run but it's the small buildings themselves that restrict flow and send people outside and around the building to stand in line.
Lynda (California native in the UK)
Six months ago I needed to renew my license by taking the written test in person. I booked on line in advance. On the day I walked right in and was through the whole process in less than 30 minutes, while the line for walk-up customers extended around the building. They were going to be there a very long time. As others have said before me-- do as much as possible online.
Christoper Burns (Napa, Ca)
I have never waited more than an hour at a California DMV. The last 10 interactions with the DMV have been online - license renewal and vehicle registration - 15 minutes top. Maybe people need to start doing their business online.
Pamela Whalen (San Diego)
The new Real ID CA drivers license cannot be applied for online, hence every individual that needs a new license is compelled to show up in person at the DMV. With supporting documents in hand.
HJR (Wilmington Nc)
@Christoper Burns Per Calif dmv website you can only renew by mail two times, then have to appear. Also real id compliant licenses have to be done in person. Not clear to me if Calif is now real id compliant? Know NC is not yet, waiting for that to hit the fan. Have a valid passport?
Maven3 (Los Angeles)
Could this mess have something to do with California's wacky law that allows (and encourages) people to register as voters when they are renewing their drivers' licenses and car registration? Years ago, I was in the California Supreme Court audience when such a law was argued and its proponents assured the court that the voter registration process would be speedy and take only a few minutes. To which a lawyer on the opposing team wisely responded: "Not if you are the 25th person in line."
Roger D. Moore (Etobicoke, Canada)
@Maven3 In Canada, the federal income tax return has a check box which allows a self-declared Canadian citizen to register to vote in federal elections. Document inspection is relegated to the clerk at the polling place. There are financial incentives for people who lack taxable income to file a return so this scheme does not discriminate against the poor.
mosselyn (Silicon Valley)
@Maven3 It's not that whacky. Virginia was doing it that way more than 30 years ago.
RMurphy (Bozeman)
Could that GOP quote have sounded any more sleazy? It's so apparent he doesn't care, he just wants to blame the Dems for it.
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