Department of Motor Vehicle employees and consumers alike are expressing frustrations as wait times have tripled over last year at many branches in October despite $26 million in recent computer upgrades to modernize the agency's software.
Could long lines and other problems with the modernization at the Connecticut DMV be what several employees call “the new normal”? Several DMV employees, who didn't want to go on camera for fear of losing their jobs, spoke exclusively to the NBC Connecticut Troubleshooters about gripes regarding the agency's new software that rolled out in August. They gave it mixed reviews.
One familiar with the new software said, “There was more doom and gloom along the way than what ended up in the end.”
DMV customer Alicia Fagan said, “It's rather chaotic and you wait a long time.”
A DMV employee told the Troubleshooters, “Simple transactions are taking ridiculous amounts of time."
DMV customer Margaret Morin tried to get a pair of registrations at the New Britain office this month.
“The room is packed in there. There's nowhere to sit,” she said.
A different DMV employee explained he now has to “use multiple windows to perform a task” instead of one screen like in the past.
Another employee said a new requirement to scan documents has caused delays, stating, “The scanner freezes, and we have to reboot the whole system, and that is time consuming." And rebooting the system can take about six minutes every time it happens, that employee said.
The Troubleshooters obtained tallies of “error reports” that DMV employees must fill out every time something like a scanner lockup occurs. Those reports reflect that there’s an error on average about 1 percent of the time, meaning one out of every 100 transactions.
DMV Commissioner Andres Ayala commented, “Because the computer freezes, we have to reboot. By the time we reboot, do that 10-minute transaction again, now we're looking at a transaction that should have taken 10 minutes, now being elongated to a 25 minute transaction. A couple of those a day, adds more time to our customer's waiting."
Ayala confirmed solving the scanner issue looms large and his team must work out bugs in the computer software rather than go back to making paper copies of key documents.
“We’re in an era right now where scanning is kind of the normal way of doing business,” he said.
The commissioner also stressed a third of the people showing up at branches could have done their business online. When we brought up all the problems people had with the online services after the rollout, he said his team has fixed most of those issues.
Then there’s another issue that DMV employees call a “huge time-killer.” They told the Troubleshooters that the agency has had to “recreate” more than 22,000 titles and registrations not transferred to the new system because they were expired or had an existing problem. In all 175,000 titles and registrations with various issues have had to be resolved from the old system.
Mike Maloney says his son tried to get an error fixed on the title for this Subaru and he’s still waiting, two months later.
“It’s just the repeated calls and time it takes to follow up. Make sure things are happening, and still, it seems to be languishing," Maloney said.
State officials said that besides continuing to get DMV workers and the public more up to speed with the new software, the DMV is looking at something called “virtual cueing” to ease waits at offices.
Basically you would sign up and get a text telling you you're turn at the counter is coming up soon.
Ayala said, “We can't be afraid to try new things. We replaced a 40-year-old system."
The fact is, other states using the same DMV software have seen long lines in branches ease about a year after their software was rolled out. Some administrators in other states told the Troubleshooters that while customers eventually migrated online to get their DMV business done and that eased lines at branches, requirements brought on by the new software made transactions permanently longer than they used to be.