After Computer Upgrade, DMV Wait Times Nearly Triple [Hartford Courant]

November 9, 2015

Article as it appeared in the Hartford Courant

Despite the Department of Motor Vehicles’ continued assurances of progress in reducing long lines at its branches after a major computer overhaul last summer, new statistics show sharp increases in the time customers wait for service.

The average wait time in the last seven days of September 2014 was about 37 minutes, but that jumped to about 98 minutes in the same period in September 2015, according to data released Thursday by the DMV in response to a freedom of information request made by The Courant. September was the first full month after the DMV shut down most of its services for a week to switch to a new computer system as part of a $25 million project.

The average wait in the first 18 days of October 2014 was about 31 minutes, compared to 95 minutes during the same time last month, the DMV data showed.

Asked about the unfavorable trend in wait times from last year to this year, Andres Ayala Jr., the DM commissioner, said in a statement that the agency is “reviewing this data closely.”

“It is critical that we be faster and more responsive to customers because they deserve no less. While we are just 11 weeks into the launch, we know that wait times must be brought down. We are working to resolve it.”

Wait times reported by the DMV are from the time a customer receives a numbered ticket to the time he or she gets to the service window. They do not include time waiting in line to get the ticket, or time spent at the window for a transaction.

The breakdown by branches showed that some customers waited as much as five times as long as during the first 18 days of October last year.

In Hamden, the average wait time in October 2014 was just over 22 minutes, but this October, customers waited about 115 minutes, a fivefold increase.

A similar increase was seen at the DMV office in Winsted, which jumped from about 27 minutes to over two hours, the data showed.

The Bridgeport office’s wait time during that portion of October more than tripled, from about 39 minutes last year to just over 128 minutes this year.

For customers who visited the Waterbury office, the average wait times during the first 18 days in October jumped from about 27 minutes in 2014 to about 78 minutes in 2015.

In Wethersfield, the change during the first 18 days of October last year was about 41 minutes vs. about 78 minutes during the same time this year.

The Enfield office had the smallest jump from October 2014 to October 2015, going from about 42 minutes to about 68 minutes, the data showed.

The new DMV statistics were released at a time when residents have been complaining about the delays.

The department’s acknowledgment of the problem drew a sharp reaction from the top-ranking Republican senator on the legislature’s transportation committee, who vowed to seek legislative hearings on the issue.

“Connecticut motorists deserve better. The system’s bugs should have been worked out by now,” said Sen. Toni Boucher of Wilton. “We will be calling for legislative hearings to examine these ongoing problems,” she said, adding, “We would hope Gov. Dannel Malloy would be leading the charge to get answers and make progress, but we will not hesitate to generate those answers through our own legislative efforts.”

Boucher wrote to Ayala on Oct. 26, “As you know, legislators have been receiving countlessinquiries from our constituents regarding the service issues at the Department of Motor Vehicles.”

Among her questions to the commissioner were:

• “How long were the wait times before the computer upgrade?”

• “How long are the wait times for DMV services now, after the upgrade?”

• “Why are such long wait times continuing so long after the computer upgrades?”

• “Why are wait times listed online often so inaccurate?”

The DMV closed all 19 of its locations from Aug.11-15 to install its new computer system, but when the offices reopened Aug.18 with the new system in place, customers reported wait times as long as seven hours, and lines spilled outside at almost every location as staff struggled to adjust to the new system.

Ayala said a month ago that an adjustment period was expected after the new system was installed. “Historically, whenever you make a switch like this, there would be several months of dealing with issues and long lines and what have you,” Ayala said, adding that some DMV locations are still seeing long lines but that “we’re in a better place today.”