Good Government at Work

 

I had to renew my driver’s license at the MVD Friday morning. I know what you’re thinking. But you know, it was not terrible! I arrived well-armed with my online fillable PDF application in hand, two utility bills in my name, my 2018 W-2 (as I long ago lost my SSI card), my birth certificate (which says I was born in Danville, NH, when in fact I was born across the border in the Hale Hospital in Haverhill, MA), my old license, and a credit card.

The place had that worn-out 1960s feel: beige, brick, steel, glass, fluorescent lighting, and dropped ceilings. Overlapping queues to nowhere circled the center of a large room funneling folks to an opening where one of the clerks commanding a surrounding cubicle could call you to a vacated spot. There were no chairs; gone was the intercom announcing random assigned numbers and cubicles. There was actually a “pre-queue” where you waited for an initial clerk to ask your business, glance over your paperwork, and red-card anyone not fully prepared to survive all the required box checks. It was that clerk who took my picture – a shockingly ugly photo even by my low standards, but it would do.

Once through a second, longer winding queue that encompassed half the building, another clerk made quick work of the task at hand. In less than five minutes, I had a copy of my new license (the actual license would follow in the mail). The entire experience took maybe 20 minutes. And my new license, which meets the new federal standard for domestic flight ID, cost just $25. It’s good for five years.

I must say, it was fast, efficient and cheap. One can ask no more of government than that.

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There are 17 comments.

  1. Stad Thatcher

    The last few trips to my local DMV were stunning. The longest time I spent was about 15 minutes getting my RealID driver’s license (the pictures still suck). Some one has gone in there and streamlined the operations.

    The same thing at my doctor’s office. They were notoriously slow, but the last few trips have been pretty quick.

    Somewhere out there is a methodology to streamline bureaucracy . . .

    • #1
    • September 6, 2019, at 2:35 PM PDT
    • 2 likes
  2. She Thatcher
    She

    Thanks for this post. I live in PA, one of the least efficient states in the country, when it comes to almost any sort of state government activity. But for the last five or six years I’ve had absolutely no complaints about the drivers’ license, vehicle registration, and other PennDOT services that are accessible online.

    The annual vehicle registration is taken care of completely online, and is instantaneous. So when I forget to do it (easier now that they don’t even send me an annual “sticker,” and I remember only when I check the registration before taking the car in for inspection (there is a windshield sticker that reminds me to do that), I can get my papers the night before, and drive in to the dealer with a clear conscience the next morning.

    The driver’s license thing is pretty much as you describe–do all the paperwork up front, and then show up to have it finalized.

    If only the rest of my ‘tax dollars at work’ could result in such painless and efficient services all-round, I’d be a very happy camper.

    • #2
    • September 6, 2019, at 2:57 PM PDT
    • Like
  3. Tex929rr Coolidge

    Vehicle registrations are done at the county tax office, which is awesome. Driver license renewal is through the Texas DPS (which also includes our troopers). Mail renewal is easy although I have to go in person because of an endorsement to drive oversized fire trucks.

    The last time I went the line was short, but the problem was that everyone in front of me had some bizarre set of problems. You know, “I have an Ohio license but a trooper confiscated it and my insurance is in Idaho”. I guess going in person is basically all the people with problems. 

    I once had to go to the state DPS office that handles lost titles (for a 30 year old fire truck we were giving away). It’s tucked under this enormous interstate interchange in San Antonio. I figured going to the lost title office would be a nightmare, but I was out in 90 seconds with no charge. I told the lady at the window that she was my favorite state employee, ever. 

    • #3
    • September 6, 2019, at 3:18 PM PDT
    • 3 likes
  4. OldPhil Coolidge

    We went in to get our Virginia Real ID licenses a couple months ago. It took about 90 minutes because there was a big crowd there doing all kinds of actions. But once we got called, it only took about 10 minutes because we had all the documentation based on the very detailed web site. But my picture is horrible. I look like a bald ghost. 

    • #4
    • September 6, 2019, at 4:24 PM PDT
    • Like
  5. MarciN Member

    Funny story: In Massachusetts, AAA has become an alternate place for people to get their Registry of Motor Vehicles chores done. It’s a very popular alternative. In fact, last winter, my husband went over to their office three times to get his license renewed, but the line was really long every time. The fourth time, he said, “The heck with this. I’ll try the Registry. It can’t be any worse.” Surprise, surprise, there was no line at all. :-) Everyone is going to the AAA office. :-) 

    • #5
    • September 6, 2019, at 5:17 PM PDT
    • 4 likes
  6. EODmom Coolidge

    She (View Comment):

    Thanks for this post. I live in PA, one of the least efficient states in the country, when it comes to almost any sort of state government activity. But for the last five or six years I’ve had absolutely no complaints about the drivers’ license, vehicle registration, and other PennDOT services that are accessible online.

    The annual vehicle registration is taken care of completely online, and is instantaneous. So when I forget to do it (easier now that they don’t even send me an annual “sticker,” and I remember only when I check the registration before taking the car in for inspection (there is a windshield sticker that reminds me to do that), I can get my papers the night before, and drive in to the dealer with a clear conscience the next morning.

    The driver’s license thing is pretty much as you describe–do all the paperwork up front, and then show up to have it finalized.

    If only the rest of my ‘tax dollars at work’ could result in such painless and efficient services all-round, I’d be a very happy camper.

    My husband renews the cars’ registrations that are titled in his name – online. I like to renew mine by going down to our town hall and saying hi to our town clerk – Holly – and registering the cars and the dog at the same time. It takes 5 minutes on the way to the post office and I get to say hi to Holly, or the Assistant town Clerk Jane (who cuts her hair for Baby Locks.) And they say NH isn’t friendly. I’ll have to drive to a DMV office 20 minutes away to renew my driver’s license. 

    • #6
    • September 6, 2019, at 5:45 PM PDT
    • 1 like
  7. WillowSpring Member

    Tex929rr (View Comment):
    I have to go in person because of an endorsement to drive oversized fire trucks.

    Now that’s cool! I think I’d work that into about every conversation I had.

    • #7
    • September 7, 2019, at 5:26 AM PDT
    • 2 likes
  8. Matt Bartle Member

    The few times I’ve had to go the DMV in recent years have been positive, too. Most things are online now, but when I go it’s pretty quick. The best innovation was the person up front to make sure you have the right forms and documentation and get in the right line. After that it goes smoothly.

    And while we’re at it, the Post Office has been pretty good, too, and I go there more often than the DMV.

    • #8
    • September 7, 2019, at 7:23 AM PDT
    • Like
  9. Full Size Tabby Member

    MarciN (View Comment):

    Funny story: In Massachusetts, AAA has become an alternate place for people to get their Registry of Motor Vehicles chores done. It’s a very popular alternative. In fact, last winter, my husband went over to their office three times to get his license renewed, but the line was really long every time. The fourth time, he said, “The heck with this. I’ll try the Registry. It can’t be any worse.” Surprise, surprise, there was no line at all. :-) Everyone is going to the AAA office. :-)

    That is pretty funny. When we lived in California 25 years ago, the AAA did DMV tasks much more efficiently than did the DMV. When selling a car to another private party, I threw in a AAA membership for the buyer so we could together take care of the title and registration transfer at the AAA office.

    • #9
    • September 7, 2019, at 11:03 AM PDT
    • 1 like
  10. Full Size Tabby Member

    Tex929rr (View Comment):

    Vehicle registrations are done at the county tax office, which is awesome. Driver license renewal is through the Texas DPS (which also includes our troopers). Mail renewal is easy although I have to go in person because of an endorsement to drive oversized fire trucks.

    The last time I went the line was short, but the problem was that everyone in front of me had some bizarre set of problems. You know, “I have an Ohio license but a trooper confiscated it and my insurance is in Idaho”. I guess going in person is basically all the people with problems.

    . . ..

    When we moved to Texas last fall I was impressed with the speed and helpfulness of the county tax office in getting the cars registered. But having car registration handled at a different office than the driver’s license was a new one on us – our prior states processed car registrations and driver’s licenses at the same office. 

    Our interaction with DPS for driver’s license was mixed. We had to go in person, since we were moving from another state. I was unable to find online a fillable form to prepare ahead of time. When we got to the DPS office there was a long line. While standing in line we filled out the only driver’s license form they had on display in the rack. But when we got to the front of the line (an hour later), the clerk told us we had the wrong form for transferring from another state. She sent us away to fill out a different form (but told us when we filled it out we could come to the head of the line). At one point, with about 40 people in line, only one clerk was on duty at the five service windows, between breaks and what we learned was one clerk’s failure to show up for work that day. 

    We planned to use our US Passports to confirm our legal presence in the country to get the “Real ID” license. But the federal Homeland Security computer system was down, so Texas DPS couldn’t verify our passports. I happened to have my birth certificate with me, which served as an alternate confirmation of my legal presence in the country (though two clerks had to confer about their slightly different interpretations whether the official copy I had with me met some paperwork requirement detail). Mrs. Tabby had to drive back to our new house to get her birth certificate and marriage license. So the whole exercise for driver’s license took 5 hours. At least we didn’t need to take either a written exam or a driving test.

    When my brother moved to Texas 6 months later, he had a much better experience by going to one of DPS’s large “super centers” that takes appointments and has more staff to handle the problem cases.

    • #10
    • September 7, 2019, at 11:29 AM PDT
    • Like
  11. Full Size Tabby Member

    Stad (View Comment):

    The last few trips to my local DMV were stunning. The longest time I spent was about 15 minutes getting my RealID driver’s license (the pictures still suck). Some one has gone in there and streamlined the operations.

    The same thing at my doctor’s office. They were notoriously slow, but the last few trips have been pretty quick.

    Somewhere out there is a methodology to streamline bureaucracy . . .

    For a number of years part of my job was managing some of the bureaucratic processes of the law department of a large corporation. I learned a lot about process management watching fast food restaurants process and deliver orders (particularly McDonald’s). 

    • #11
    • September 7, 2019, at 11:32 AM PDT
    • 2 likes
  12. GLDIII Temporarily Essential Thatcher

    Gracious it pains me to say this as I recall the long lines, indifferent workers and general chaos of the DMV’s visit of my youth in the ultra blue state of Maryland.

    However Friday, after making an appointment two weeks ago, (even got a live reminder call the day before!) I was ushered to a short line for those who did make appointments, a 2 minute check to insure I had the correct documents and was given a “number”. I barely had time to visit the restroom, and I was called to the counter (with a seat no less!). The nice young lady looked at my records (I gave her a choice on either my passport or my birth certificate, and she chose the later since they are easier to scan), scanned everything, had me renew my voter info, which now has a clear line for being a US resident and some bolded words about perjury for not answering everything truthfully.

    I was out of there in less than 20 minutes start to finish. 

    This new streamed line MVA, with self serve kiosks, and online registration for renewals, and other quick amenities for standard service items is not helping a conservative’s position of “do you really want the government to be in charge of ……. Fill in the blank” service. 

    They can still be a pain, like when I purchase a car out of state and had to title and tag it. They sat on the acknowledging they received the paper work from the NC dealership and ran out my temporary tags, so they still have a long way to go in my estimation. But we are not going to have to pick other dysfunctional government services to make the case.

    Do we have any libertarians here who would like to put forth the case of why do we even need to register vehicles with any government agency. It seems like just a venue to fleece one’s citizens.

    • #12
    • September 8, 2019, at 9:09 AM PDT
    • Like
  13. Full Size Tabby Member

    GLDIII Temporarily Essential (View Comment):
    Do we have any libertarians here who would like to put forth the case of why do we even need to register vehicles with any government agency. It seems like just a venue to fleece one’s citizens.

    I am not a libertarian, and my response is for driver’s licenses, not vehicle registration (though maybe the same logic could apply to both).

    I am intrigued by a suggestion that insurance companies (or other guarantors of financial responsibility) be responsible for issuing driver’s licenses. After all, they foot the bill for incompetent driving. So why not have them decide who is competent enough?

    • #13
    • September 8, 2019, at 12:32 PM PDT
    • Like
  14. Marythefifth Member

    I renewed my drivers license in 2018 having to wait with several hundred people in one huge room. My wait time was 4 hours. The population of the county is too large for the number of places that handle this. I can at least be grateful that most folks had a chair to sit in and the office quitting time was when everyone who arrived before ??:00 PM (and doors locked?) were processed that same day. I resented the whole process knowing it could be handled so much better. In fact, it had always been almost a breeze in years past.

    • #14
    • September 9, 2019, at 8:01 AM PDT
    • Like
  15. The Gold Tooth Member

    This was my unexpectedly pleasant experience obtaining a REAL ID driving license in Pennsylvania in April of this year, written up and posted at the time to a local FB group. This Good Government thing might be a trend.

    ************

    Last week I obtained a REAL ID-compliant Pennsylvania driver’s license. This is how it went.

    I chose to go the same-day, instant-issuance route and entered the DMV office in King of Prussia at approximately 10:00 a.m. on a Wednesday (not every DMV office can provide same-day service; check before visiting). I took a ticket expecting to have to wait for a while but was immediately called to a desk to be serviced.

    At the desk I handed over my Pennsylvania driving license (issued in Sept. 2018, expiring in Dec. 2022) along with the supporting documents I had brought with me (all originals, photocopies not accepted):

    (1) My US passport as proof of my identity and lawful status

    (2) My Social Security card as proof of my Social Security number

    (3) My current PA driver’s license and a PA vehicle registration card as proof of my PA residency

    Other types of documents are accepted as proof of identity/lawful status and PA residency, these are just the ones I chose to submit. Only the Social Security card has no acceptable substitutes.

    The clerk handed me two forms to sign—name, address, etc., nothing complicated—typed at her computer for a while, and then handed me a bill for $80.50. I queried this as my web research had told me the cost of a REAL ID was $30, but she explained that as my driving license for two vehicle classes (cars and motorcycles) was being renewed for four years at the same time I would have to pay for that service also ($50.50).

    I took the camera card she handed me to a different clerk who sat me in a chair and took my picture. I do my best to look like an axe murderer in official photographs and am proud to report that the effort on this occasion paid off spectacularly.

    That was it. Roughly 20 minutes after entering the facility I walked out with a PA driver’s license expiring in 2026 featuring the all-important REAL ID symbol of a white star inside a gold circle. A piece of cake, and how many interactions with government qualify for that description?

    • #15
    • September 9, 2019, at 8:04 AM PDT
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  16. Aaron Miller Member

    We at the Ministry for Adminstrative Affairs are pleased that you are pleased. We spared no expense!

    No rebates. Please note that all time saved in this interaction will be acted upon future activities. 

    • #16
    • September 9, 2019, at 10:28 AM PDT
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  17. Ray Kujawa Coolidge

    Doug Kimball: …, and a credit card.

    Why would you need to bring anything else? Are they not going to take your money?

    Doug Kimball: … And my new license, which meets the new federal standard for domestic flight ID, cost just $25. It’s good for five years.

    Okay, that makes sense now. Sounds pretty cool.

    • #17
    • September 10, 2019, at 12:43 PM PDT
    • Like