The Abysmal Mess That Is the Texas DMV

The delightful Ada Brown, who is the Dallas board member on the Public Safety Commission, invited me to lunch after I ran this post on the incompetence and mismanagement of its DMV. We had a wonderful chat because she is a wonderful person. Unfortunately, I came away with the impression that the Commission members have no idea what is going on under their noses.

For example, Ms. Brown had no idea that Governor Mitch Daniels had reduced average wait times at the Indiana DMV to 6 minutes and 20 seconds. She had no idea what the wait times at Texas DMV locations is. She asked me for a list of other states where DMVs had improved performance. I replied that if Director Steve McCaw had not provided the Commission with a best practices survey and benchmarks for measuring the Texas DMV against them, he should be fired. She told me she hoped the new Garland Super Center would relieve wait times in Dallas. I asked her on what evidence her hopes were based. She replied that the DPS had done a study. If the DPS had done a study, I asked, why didn’t she know the average wait times. She replied that they had reported the average wait times to get to the information desk, but not how long it took after that to be served. I raised my eyebrows.

This is not rocket science. The problem has already been solved. All the Commission has to do is adapt the solutions to Texas. What makes this so hard?

I’ll tell you what makes this so hard. Steve McCay, the director foisted on the Commission by Rick Perry, is a lifetime law enforcement careerist. He likes chasing bad guys. He doesn’t know anything about bad systems or how to fix them. The Commission itself is at fault. As far as I can tell, its members are nothing more than wallpaper decorating the director’s office.

34 comments on “The Abysmal Mess That Is the Texas DMV

  1. @Joy, you can’t always go online unfortunately. My name was legally changed after divorce. I had to personally go into the DMV with my divorce decree. Two hour wait & I felt like I needed to be fumigated! Ugh!

  2. Had my license renewed just last week at Dallas City Hall. There were 9 people ahead of me in line. When I arrived they were serving #9, I was #19. This was for the basic renewal where you get a new photo, eye test, thumbprints and SSN verification. Guess you need one ever 12 years. Took 35 minutes from the time I was given a number till the time my number was called. Two clerks on duty. 6-7 minutes a person I guess. Seems that City Hall is probably the place to go since they don’t administer drivers tests of any kind. Only renewals and lost licenses. 6-8 weeks I was told for the license to show up in the mail.

  3. @Amy S. their website is completely ridiculous…and after living in Illinois and Iowa – where both states handed me my license while I waited, why do I have to wait 6-8 weeks for my license here in Texas?

  4. I have been to city hall 4 times in my life for drivers license related issues. It has never once taken longer than 28 minutes from entry to exit (stopwatch every time for fun) with two of the visits taking less than 10 min. I was actually disappointed the last time as I brought a book and didn’t have enough time to even finish a page. No clue where these hours long lines take place.

  5. Now that you (may) need photo ID to vote, kinda makes you wonder why Gov. Perry and Steve McCay want to make it so difficult.

  6. Unfortunately renewals cannot be done on line when you get the written notice in the mail that your license is going to expire. They want a new photo every 12 twelve years.
    The Northwest Highway and Jupiter renewal location is open Tuesday night until 6:00 pm. Get in the door at 5:55pm and you will get out quickly because the employees move fast and want to get home too.

  7. Her’e's an idea: All those postal workers who are going to be out of work in Dallas can transfer from the pseudo-non-federal post office to the state’s DMV. That should give the state some people with experience in handling snake lines and grousing citizens. And the new campaign in Texas should be “Want to drive friendly? Come in and sit a spell.”

  8. @Ben, I did my last renewal at City Hall, thinking the same thing you did. Just a Plain Jane renewal.

    I had to go out to put more money in the meter four times.

  9. Ben, you were lucky it only took 35 minutes at City Hall. I went two years ago and it took an hour and a half. I was feeding a meter and unfortunately did not go often enough and got a $20 ticket.

  10. I’ve been doing City Hall since the early 80s. Not sure why I want to share this, but always really quick for me.

  11. @critic – You cannot renew online when you are a teenager finished with your 1 year license either. And it appears the law changed requiring this renewal to be accompanied with a Proof of Enrollment from school. Even though proof of enrollment is provided before the first license is ever issued. Good luck finding that on the website.

  12. The renewal I did online included an address change. Very glad it didn’t require an in-person visit for a new photo.

  13. I would tell all of you how I got in and out of the DMV in less than 30 minutes, but then you’d all go there and well, I’m not in the business of screwing myself over.

    But here’s the protip: Find a smaller town. And not Plano. Never Plano. You can die of old before you talk to a live human being in the Plano DMV. I’m pretty sure I saw people cooking things on little hibachi while waiting in line at the Plano DMV.

  14. It’s the DEP’T OF PUBLIC SAFETY. DMV is another state entity.

    If you’re going to find a singular state agency that you find odious, you could at least get the name right, Lodowick.

  15. I’ve tried off and on to get a Texas driver’s license over the years, but it is a complete cluster every time I go. Instead, I just keep renewing my Oklahoma license. Takes all of 5 minutes, no wait, including photo… Dozens of highly convenient locations.

  16. @Bethany-not McKinney either. And pray you don’t go on a day the computer system is down. Stood in line outdoors. In the rain. Cold rain. After an hour a mom who had been waiting with a child hoping to take her driving test came out fuming because her daughter’s scheduled test was cancelled because this failure. Never a word from our friends at DMV.

  17. I went to City Hall two weeks ago to do my renewal because I could not do mine online (I did online the last time). It took 15 minutes just to get a number. It took another 3 hours, 15 minutes to get up to the counter. A friend of mine went a week ago for his renewal and it took 2 1/2 hours. City Hall used to be where you could get in and out. Unfortunately, this no longer seems to be the case.

  18. When I moved to NJ from TX I practically packed a lunch to go get my new license– preparing for a TX style wait. Fifteen minutes after I arrived I walked out with an actual NJ license–no scuzzy waiting room and no paper temporary–a real drivers license with my picture on it. I hate to admit when NJ does something better than TX but they win hands down on this one. Maybe Gov Perry needs to give Gov Christie a call??

  19. And how about having to take my 16 year old to Wichita Falls because every DMV anywhere near north Texas was booked for drivers tests until May! I still waited for 2 hours, even in Wichita Falls!

  20. We know that taking a stand on local civic issues has not been kind to Lodowick in recent years, but I wish he’d forget about being anti-hotel (fail, for now) pro-tollway (fail), pro-Leppert (fail), and return his gaze to his new home city. Focusing on gimmees like the DMV are not becoming of this man in full.

  21. Nine hour waits at McKinney for renewals are not unusual. And that’s OUTSIDE in the heat, rain, storms, etc.

    City hall is hit/miss. Four hours for a state ID card for a minor, and the clerk argued with me over the color of my child’s eyes.

  22. If Obamacare survives, get ready for the same type government geniuses to manage your health care. Maybe that’s where the postal workers wind up.

  23. I went to the NW Hwy & Jupiter location in Oct to get my license renewed-had to get the new picture so no online. In Jan, I lost my license at the Cotton Bowl so I had to go back and get another one (had to take another picture too). Both times I got there before 8:30am and I waited 1 hr 30 min and 1 hr 20 min, respectively. The day after I went and got the replacement license, a nice person mailed me my old license found at the Cotton Bowl.

    Been to City Hall several times. The shortest time was about 1 1/2 hrs, but more like over 2 hrs.

  24. I took my daughter to the Alvin (small town) DMV to take her permit test. We arrived half an hour before they opened. There were already 20 people in line, some with lawn chairs. After waiting 2 hours to get to the front we were told we needed proof of residency ( not on my checklist). Took 30min to go home get the proof and get back. Another 30 min wait and then another 30 min to process the paper work. Half an hour to take the test and then another half hour to get the results which we already knew. We moved from Minnesota where we never waited more than 15 minutes. Insane!

  25. The horror stories I hear around the mid cities area have to do with parents trying to get their kids driver’s tests or provisional licenses. I know of one who waited nearly three hours with his daughter. Another who showed up on a Monday morning (Farmers Branch, I think) and saw lines wrapped around the building and left. An online friend told me this is because many DPS/DMV offices have been closed? Can anyone verify this?

  26. Went to City Hall today. An hour after I got there, they still hadn’t called my number. I went outside to put more money in the meter and when I came back, my number was up on the board. I went up to the desk and the woman said, “I already called your number, now I’m helping the next person.” I stood back and waited until she was finished, then walked up to the counter. She told me I had to go to the back of the line and get a new number. Everyone went to lunch and left one person to issue licenses. I got out 3 hours after I walked in.

  27. I just got my license renewed. It took about 20 minutes to have my number called. The whole process took quite a while (about 90 minutes). The reason it took so long was because the lady behind the desk went above and beyond what was required so that I wouldn’t have to get a letter from my VA doctor that stated I was permitted to drive. As a result of a disability, I’m on meds and had to check the box asking if I was under any type of medical care currently. Since none of my medication affects my ability to drive, it never occurred to me to ask for anything like that.

    If not for her patience and willingness to help the process would have taken much less time at the DPS (I would not have been able to get the license renewed) but it would have taken me much more time to complete. I’m sure that slowed down the process for everyone waiting after me.

    If my 20 minute wait was due to their willingness to help other people in the same way I was helped, I don’t mind waiting. The other clerks I overheard while at the counter were very helpful to the people they were serving, giving information that the applicants were unaware of but was helpful to them.