State Lawmakers to Question DMV About Long Lines

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People wait in line outside of the DMV in Los Angeles. (ROBYN BECK/AFP/Getty Images)

California lawmakers are seeking answers from the Department of Motor Vehicles about hours-long wait times that have prompted public outcry.

When Assemblyman Phil Ting visited a San Francisco DMV office in his district last month, he said the line snaking around the block looked more like a queue for rock concert tickets than for people trying to renew their licenses.

"I was shocked," the Democrat said. "What we've been hearing are horrific wait times of six or seven hours. That's unacceptable."

Ting will lead a hearing Tuesday to question DMV officials about what they are doing to reduce wait times.

Lawmakers have given the department nearly $70 million in additional funding to accommodate higher demand as Californians update their licenses to comply with federally mandated security upgrades known as Real ID. The federal law was enacted in 2005 in the wake of the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks and requires new ID cards to carry special markings.


After Oct. 1, 2020, airport security checkpoints won't accept non-compliant cards. Californians must apply for new cards in person at DMV offices.

On KQED's Forum, DMV spokesperson Jessica Gonzalez cited the requirement for Real ID applicants to come in for an in-person visit as one of the things contributing to long wait times. Another is the new queuing system. In some cases, Bay Area residents could wait for longer than six weeks for a DMV appointment.

At the Tuesday hearing, Ting says he plans to ask DMV officials whether the money allotted to the system is enough and whether the DMV is making technical improvements to ensure the Real ID transition runs smoothly.

Assemblyman Phillip Chen  is requesting an audit of the department and how it is handling the Real ID changes. The top complaint he's heard from his constituents recently is about the long wait times at DMV offices.

"We want to make sure we're not putting money into a broken system," the Diamond Bar Republican said.

The Joint Legislative Audit Committee will weigh Chen's audit request Wednesday.