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Avoid DMV Hassles of Long Lines

If you intend to visit DMV, the Department of Motor Vehicles without an appointment get ready to spend an entire morning or afternoon trapped in crowded field offices.

Liz Guillen, a legislative advocate, was among them last week. The earliest appointment she could get to replace a lost license was next month, so she dropped by the Broadway office Thursday instead at 8:30 a.m. — and didn't get out until 1:43 p.m.

"It's almost undignified," she said, sitting in the jammed room. "California is the fifth-largest economy in the world!"

My personal experience at the DMV offices is exactly contrary of Liz Guillen. In order to collect the necessary documents, I made a quick search on the DMV website. Once the page opened up, the first message that appeared was clear, “Visit a DMV office (make an Appointment(s) for faster service.)”

Following the DMV instructions on their website, I first made the appointment although the early available date was after a month. But it was worth it because as I arrived at the DMV offices I found myself in a pleased position to surpass the long lines and finishing my transactions in about 30 minutes.

Here are Tony Bizjak’s research and tips of how to minimize hassles in the DMV offices of California.

Why are lines so long?

The DMV has struggled to roll out some major changes this year.

The state began issuing federally-mandated REAL ID cards, which is bringing thousands more people to field offices. The REAL ID cards are driver's licenses that will serve as identification at federal airport security checkpoints for domestic flights starting in October 2020.

The DMV also changed its numbered "queuing" system for motorists waiting at field offices, but the new system confused some employees, lengthening waits. Employees in some offices are being retrained.

Try Saturday

To ease the crowding, the DMV opened the doors of 40 field offices on Saturday from 8 a.m. to 1 p.m. and will continue that on the first and third Saturdays of each month. The state may open 43 more field offices on Saturdays in July if enough drivers are coming in. The DMV lists the first 40 on its website.

But, really, stay away

If you are doing a transaction that can be handled online or via mail, don't come in to the office. Here is the DMV link to what services you can do online.

An early appointment trick

DMV asks everyone to make an appointment before going to a field office. DMV officials last week said they've cleared up most of their new numbered queuing system issues and have brought more employees on board, so wait times for people with appointments should be shortening.

Drivers can sign up on the DMV website appointment page. You also can call the DMV's 800-777-0133 number. But the wait time Friday for an operator was two hours. The DMV suggests you leave your phone number and they will call back.


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