Accounting For DMV’s Massive Downgrade

November 9, 2015

Hartford Courant Editorial

It is becoming more evident with each passing week that the state Department of Motor Vehicles’ computer overhaul was not ready for prime time when it was instituted in August.

Immediately after the changes were made, waiting times at DMV offices were outrageously long. OK, there was a backlog, given that department offices had been shut for a week. But some people were in line for hours on end.

Now DMV wait times are still nearly triple what they were a year ago, according to numbers acquired by The Courant. The average wait in September was 98 minutes, and in October 95 minutes.

That is way too long to have to wait for a simple transaction.

And those numbers don’t include the time at the window to complete a transaction.

The response from DMV Commissioner Andres Ayala Jr. has been mostly a generic apology.

“It is critical that we be faster and more responsive to customers because they deserve no less,” he said in a prepared statement. “Wait times must be brought down. We are working to resolve it.”

Certainly, commissioner. But where’s the follow-up? Something like “… and here is what we are going to do immediately to address the problem” would be welcome.

There is no question that the DMV’s antiquated computer system, which had been cobbled together in bits and pieces over the years, was badly in need of an upgrade.

Not infrequently, Connecticut drivers were accused by police in other states of driving an unregistered motor vehicle, when in fact the car had been registered in Connecticut several days before. It took that long for the relevant data to make its way through the system.

The new software purchased by the DMV, manufactured by 3M Corp., had been tried in other states and was modified for Connecticut.

It did not have a spotless track record. Officials in both Montana and Kansas reported that the 3M system was slow or inaccurate.

State Sen. Toni Boucher of Wilton has called for legislative hearings to examine why the wait times are still so lengthy, and why the online listing of those times are so often inaccurate.

Such hearings would be a welcome first start in determining why a supposed upgrade has turned into such a downgrade for so many motorists.