If You Thought The DMV Was Hell Before…

…then you really don’t want to read this story.

It’s related by an alert “06880” reader named Jill.  Last week her 16-year-old son Jon went to the Department of Motor Vehicles to get his learner’s permit.  Jill took the day off to accompany him.

Literally, the day off.

Unknown to anyone — except everyone needing to go there — on August 12, the DMV “regionalized” certain services.  That includes testing for permits, road tests and out-of-state license transfers.

Those services are no longer offered in 8 offices — including, unfortunately for “06880” readers, Norwalk.

Only 4 DMV offices in the entire state now offer obtain permits and driver’s licenses.  Westport:  meet Bridgeport.

Here is Jill’s story.  It is not pretty.

We arrived at 12:45, and got on line.  When you get to the front, you tell a woman why you are there.  She tells you what you need to have.

(A friend of Jon’s spent 4 hours waiting, only to be turned away because he didn’t have an actual Social Security card — only the number.  The next day, he got a note from the Social Security office saying his card was in the mail.  He went back to DMV — and was told the note was not a “sufficient form of secondary ID.”  He finally succeeded — after going home to get his religious school confirmation papers.)

You then take a picture, to ensure it is actually you who are waiting.  They also assign you a number.

We were “B-485.”  They were up to “B-353.”  I asked for an estimate.  She said she was afraid to tell me.  I asked her to ballpark it.  She said it could be 2 1/2 to 3 hours.   I said, “Not too bad.”

She replied, “Or maybe more…”

Since Jon had just finished soccer camp and was hungry, we decided to go out for food.  We had pizza, and got back an hour later.  They were up to 377.

The numbers picked up a bit, but at 3 p.m. the “B”s ground to a halt.  I  finished my Kindle book and got up to check out lines 10-14, which had been servicing the “B”s (all licenses, I believe).

One person was working.  All the rest were on break.

25 minutes later, the lines began to move again.

The holy grail.

At 4 p.m. they announced they were no longer accepting new people for testing.  Anyone who arrived after that was turned away.  One mother lamented that she’d been there since 10, waiting for her son to get his license.  I felt so sorry for her.  Little did I know…

At 4:50 our number was finally called.  We got to the counter with the correct documents.  Jon wanted to get back to the evening session of soccer camp, so I asked if — because we’d already waited — we could get a “fast pass” to return another day to take the test.

We were told no.  Since we were already 4 hours in, we decided to finish the arduous task.  Total time at the counter was 2 minutes.  I’m not sure why this process goes so slowly, except maybe many people have the wrong paperwork.

We went to line 19.  We waited another 75 minutes before Jon could take his vision test (5 seconds), and the computerized 25-question test.

Because he’d had 5 hours to study, he got the first 20 correct, and was done.  Total time:  5 minutes.

We were sent back around the corner to sit and wait for our name to be called again:  20 minutes.  We paid another fee, then waited again to take a picture.

By this time the front part of the DMV was pretty empty.   The people behind the desk were working very efficiently, as they all wanted to go home.

Applicants for a Connecticut DMV learner's permit, midway through the line. They've been waiting since they were 16.

We got the picture and permit back in 40 minutes.  Earlier, people had waited well over an hour for the picture portion to be done.  (Others waited 6 hours to change their New York license to Connecticut.  All they needed was an eye test:  3 seconds.)

We left at 6:54.  Total time:  6 hours and 9 minutes.

I did meet 2 really nice inspectors (they do the driving tests).  Both complained about how awful it’s been all week.  They say that everyone getting a permit or license from  Greenwich to Guilford now comes to the Bridgeport DMV.

Both could care less about the overtime.  They just want to go home.  They also want all of us to complain, and get this situation fixed.

They confirmed what I thought:  The state is likely not saving a cent with all of the overtime they’re paying.  As we left, one jokingly grabbed my shoulders and said, “Take me with you!”

Jill says she can’t imagine what will happen when the school year begins, and students will spend an entire day waiting.

That’s a good point.  However, it’s not like they’ll miss out on their education.  In fact, they’ll get a real-life lesson:  in the way the actual bureaucratic, government world works.

50 responses to “If You Thought The DMV Was Hell Before…

  1. Since growing up in CT I’ve lived in MA, IN, IL, NY, CA, PA, OH and none of these states even comes close to the ordeal of CT DMV. The best is IL, they have “licensed agents” and you can get things done in a number of convenience stores like 7-11. There is NO excuse for this in CT.

  2. Tea Party Nation here we come.

  3. Actually, the one or two times I’ve had to use the Bridgeport DMV office, I remember being struck by how few parking spots it seemed to have. Now that they have “regionalized” the process, I wonder how their parking lot will accommodate all the new customers. And you thought DMV couldn’t get any worse. . .

  4. Ilene Mirkine

    We had been there the day before with a similar situation – ‘dont even want to re-live the details by repeating here. Since it was the day before the regionalization, folks were supposedly trying to get in before it got bad!
    Having asked about the excessive lines, we were told that summers do tend to be worse as folks/kids are “off”. I certainly hope things settle down a bit as Jill and I do have to go back with these guys to get their licenses…

  5. I came with my son around 2 pm the same afternoon Jill and her son were there. It took me 20 minutes to find a place to park. There is an acute shortage of parking at the Bridgeport DMV. It reminded me of Penn Sta. when all trains have been cancelled, only this is how it is every day, when the system is supposedly functioning. It was over-run with people, as many standing as sitting. The woman at information told me with grim satisfaction that I could take an application, if I wished but that more than 150 people were ahead of us. The day before, she told us, they stayed open until 8:30 p.m. to process everyone whose applications they had accepted. They were about to shut down new applicants. She told us people have been lining up at 6 a.m. for their opening at 8 a.m.
    We left since we now understood the process would take at least 6 hours. We returned the following morning at 7:30 and found ourselves about 50th in line. In front of us was a mother and daughter from Newtown. This was their third attempt to get into a different DMV, now that only 4 in the state process permits. We left at 10, permit in hand. We got off easy because there were only a few in front of us seeking permits.
    There is simply no good reason for the system to function this way. The procedure Jill describes reminds me of the bureaucracy in Italy or in Eastern Europe, where I grew up. Who in Connecticut is in charge of creating efficiencies in government services? This should be a top priority as our legislators make budget cuts.

  6. Tracy Robinson

    Just imagine what government run healthcare will be like.

    • Government paid healthcare is very different than government run healthcare. Obama’s plan does neither, but why let facts get in the way of a pathetic political rant.

      Profiting off of the misery of others is immoral – which is what for-profit health insurance is all about, and what Obama worked hard to protect.

      Facts have a known liberal bias.

    • Ask someone from Massachusetts and I think you will be surprised by the answer. Thanks Mitt (whoops can’t talk abou that in front of Republicans).

  7. @ Tracy Robinson:

    Medicare seems to work quite well as does Medicaid. What doesn’t work nearly as well is private health insurance. Can you imagine what the DMV would be like if it were privatized Ms. Robinson?

    • I can. If you paid more than you would get quicker service.

      • When I lived in Seattle, Washington they had private stores in strip malls to do many of the things the DMV would do. You did however have to go to the DMV for your driving test and to change your license if you were from out of state.

        P.S. I’ll take private over government any day, be it health care or registration renewal. The have an incentive to make sure it operates efficiently; it’s called a profit! And now with Obama’s new Executive Order to ensure more diversity in government agencies that will surely speed things right along. Instead of hiring the best person for the job, we will hire a person based on the color of their skin. What was that about not judging a person by the color of their skin, but by the content of their character?!
        Look at the post office, even Obama mocked them when he compared them to Fed Ex or UPS.
        Oh and the Canadian health care is great…if you’re healthy! And it’s not ‘free’; it is not uncommon for professionals to pay over 50 percent in taxes for the privilege of waiting 6 months or longer for an MRI. I know, my Canadian mother-in-law is coming here next month and paying for one herself.

  8. The Dude Abides

    Actually they have tried to privatize the DMV in certain sections of Texas and it has worked quite well. I am not sure why most of the business can not be done online? As to Obamacare, many of its aspects have not gone into effect yet. Medicare has an 8% adminstrative overhead compared with 19% for private carriers. I am not sure why the Democrats did not just extend Medicare to the young and gradually to others instead of a 3,000 page document nobody understands including the former Speaker. However, one thing is for sure: if we don’t do something about health care, we Boomers are going to bankrupt the system big time!!

  9. Medicare part A has a $37 trillion unfunded liability. Medicare part B has a $36 trillion unfunded liability. I do not know who is at the end of the line, but they ain’t getting any.

    • Just because you can pull a number out of your ass doesn’t mean it’s true. Citation and link or I call BS.

      • So you don’t believe the U.S. has an unsustainable debt problem?! It is now over 100 percent of GDP. Where were you when the debt ceiling debate was going on a few weeks ago and S&P downgraded us? Look across the pond and see what is happening over there. Hello?! McFly!

        • “So you don’t believe the U.S. has an unsustainable debt problem.”

          No I don’t. It’s just more BS from the masters of the universe who wrecked our economy, got bailed out, and now want everyone else to suffer. American citizens will suffer and die due to the wrongheaded clamor for austerity. We need to spend our way out of this depression (just hopefully not on WW III). For 30 years we followed right wing economic policies, and the country is a shit hole because of it. Income inequality in America is similar to income inequality in Rwanda! There’s plenty of money in America – just look around. We’re just spending it on corrupt wars (it’s good to be a defense contractor, isn’t it?) and by propping up corrupt industries, and non productive wealth.

          Unfortunately for all of us, Obama and democrats have become the party of Reagan, while the GOP has become the party of a complete and total lunacy. Our elites are failing us all.

      • That wasn’t nice, but then if you aren’t familiar with the Trustees’ report for either Medicare or Social Security, I should not be surprised. Medicare’s unfunded liability has been well documented for many years


  10. The Dude Abides

    True along with 81 trillion unfunded Social Security. Debt is everywhere.
    It is choking Europe now. Got any solutions?? Did we kick the can so far down the road, it fell off a cliff???

    • With so many people in denial (“There is no unfunded liability. It’s all a lie.” See armMan post above.) there is little political will do what is necesary to bring the system into balance financially. The income transfer embodied in SS and Medicare, essentially from one generation to another, has become a hot button issue as the boomers reach retirement and the dependency ratio. increases. But there are a lot of boomers and they vote. Sweden privatized their version of SS, as have other countries. In the US, that approach has little support. So who knows?

  11. The Dude Abides

    But we are caught in a political warfare between those who oppose any form of increase in taxation and those who don’t think spending should be cut in a time of recessionary high unemployment. So we sit on the toilet until the crap starts falling???

    • It is falling now. Everybody wants a free lunch, and the political class hasn’t the fortitude necessary to speak the truth. Maybe we don’t want to hear the truth. Buy an umbrella.

      • There Is no budget Crisis — there’s a Job and Growth Crisis. All of these “unfunded liabilities” are entirely manageable without turning the US into a 3rd world country. US debt is still the safest investment in the world. It’s practically free money right now (~0% interest) – money that can fund great things for our country (other than forever wars) – but the only thing anyone wants to talk about is cutting the friggin deficit. Please give me a flow chart that explains how taking money out the economy is going to fix it. This is delusional at best, criminal at worst.

        Damn, if we could only get the confidence fairy to wave her magic little wand.

        • No one mentioned a budget crisis but you. The unfunded liabilities are facts which have been addresed in every trustees’ report for the last 40 years. There was a similar confidence “gap” during the Great Depression, Amity Shlaes described the phenomenon in her book “The Forgotten Man.” BTW interst rates were ~0% during the Great Depression.

          • Meant deficit (though in this context they are interchangeable).

            Good to see that we agree we are in a depression. World War II got us out of the last one – will “bring(ing) the system into balance financially” (whatever that means) really get us out of this one? Just how does that work? I say invest in America.

            40 years’ of reports of unfunded liabilities for a program that has served hundreds of millions American well throughout that very same time tends to prove my point that these issues have been, and continue to be entirely manageable… if you actually want them to be.

            • When the trustees state that Medicare and SS have unfunded liabilities they are addressing the issue of whether or not both programs will be able to meet their obligations in the future. Many people in foreclosure made their mortgage payments at some point in the past, however they can’t make them going forward. We are not in a depression. During the Great Depression unemployment was much higher and real growth much lower for almost 10 years. It may happen yet, but right now the economic “crisis” is just another crafted by people like Chicago’s mayor.

  12. The Dude Abides

    How about bringing Corporate “America” into the picture with some tax reform that encourages them to invest in this country instead of holding 1.3 trillion overseas??? They are running the country anyhow with their lobbyists, so I am not sure why the political hacks don’t bow to their wishes??? Or maybe . . . they like things just as they are???

  13. I don’t think there is much of a corporate America left; capital flows are global and no large corporation will exist for very long looking only to American markets. As the mayor of Chicago said; can’t let a crisis go to waste. So maybe you have it right.

  14. The Dude Abides

    You know, JPT, I always thought that the excuse the American corporations used rationalizing their actions because it is “global” economy sucked. Companies like GE, IBM, GM, Ford, etc. are American institutions with, I dare say, the majority of their shareholders as well as thousands of employees living here in this country. Why do not their priorities coincide with this country’s woes??? Perhaps it is the stupidity of our ruling class of politicians that have let this happen (e.g. TARP with the banking institutions refusing to loan the money) but we need to do something (tax incentives) to bring these CEO’s and their bottom line consistent with our needs as a general public. I believe Naomi Klein also referred to the collusion between government and business when a crisis hits (e.g Katrina).

    • Dude – most of these companies are American in name only now. Their revenue – where their heart is – is mostly from foreign sources. The US is not a growth market. It’s the burgeoning Chinese middle class – and other “emerging markets” these companies covet. The bottom line is that the American middle class is not something these companies believe is worth investing in. More importantly, there is a strong desire to bring the US labor market more in line with the low cost labor markets these companies gleefully outsource to. I do not think these companies are evil – they are doing what their shareholders require them to do. However, I don’t believe US policy (economic, foreign, and military) should be driven by the desire of essentially foreign companies to increase “shareholder value.”

      What’s good for their business is not necessarily good for American, but we continue to pretend (be conned?) that that is always the case. Free trade, as it’s currently defined, is killing the American middle class. Evidently, that seems to be OK for many of my affluent neighbors.

    • It may “suck” but no one that I know of invests in any of those companies to lose money. They are not “rationalizing” their actions, they are maximizing the returns on their investments, which is why they are in business. If you were a bank, would you lend money now? To whom? For what purpose? To take a risk to earn 4% on your investment? If you were running GE would you abandon the opportunity to earn higher returns overseas? GM and Ford are trying to sell into the same markets as are Toyota, Honda, and Hyundai. You can’t expect to sell a $20,000 car into a $15,000 car market. Finally, when GE moves jobs overseas, somebody overseas who did not have a job might get a job. Don’t these overseas workers deserve jobs?

  15. The Dude Abides

    You don’t paint a very rosy picture and seem to forecast the evaporation of the middle class in this country?? Your previous posts indicate a strong belief in governmental programs. I too believe that many such programs (e.g GI Bill after WWII) were expensive but proved to be revenue producing in the long run. That said, however, when Buffet receives $32,000 from the government a year in Social Security benefits (unknown amount in Medicare), I believe change is in order. But I have been waiting for that since the 60’s.

    • The “middle class” is as much a fable as is the philosopher king. If you wanted to build a metal fabricating plant in America, where would you do it? How many years would it take to get through all of the red tape required? Would your products be competitive if you could get the plant built and the labor hired? Yearning for the rebirth of the “middle class” is yearning for something that is not going to happen. We have stacked the deck against the the creation of those “middle class” jobs you seek to restore.

      • “The “middle class” is as much a fable as is the philosopher king.”

        Very depressing, but not surprising sentiment coming from one of my Westport neighbors.

        • The Dude Abides

          Regardless, whether fact or fable, it is disappearing. 51% of Americans make less than 21,000$ a year.

  16. The Dude Abides

    I am caught in the middle here on the discussion but I am not sure why our leaders can not make an atmosphere where what is good for American corporations is good for America. That might be an outdated mindset but if pure return on investment is our only mission, then we are bound for an aristocratic society for those with and those without. Toyota has shown that an American worker can be more productive than an Asian counterpart and with proper tax incentives, factories could return here. Instead of GE hiring 168 attorneys to find loopholes, the goal should be (by both the government and CEO’s) to find jobs here. Or am I being idealistic???

    • I hope you are not being idealistic. However, the course you suggest seems so obvious it provokes the question why has not someone offered up policies to accomplish what is so obviously in the best interests of the country as a whole.

  17. The Dude Abides

    To repeat Kubrick ad nauseum, if you ask 100 questions, the answer to 99 of them is money.

  18. Wasn’t this a discussion about the DMV?

    • Welcome to the wild world of Woog’s blog. You don’t have to draw between the lines here. Ain’t it great??

  19. Not a Fan of DMV!

    DMV is the worst run organization in CT! This just confirms it. Does anyone remember waiting in line to get their car emissions tested? I sure do! Now we only have to find a registered service garage, and you in and out in about 15 minutes! The CT DMV should offer more online services and have MORE INFORMATION online. I spent and hour on the phone, and also 2 hours online in Bridgeport (just to get to the information desk) only to be told I had to call a specific department and was given a slip of paper with the number on it! Then I went home and spent 2 hours trying to get through..and was on hold for another 30. Coming from Management background in customer service (and presently out of work) oh how I would love to get my hands on the service structure of the DMV!!!

  20. Harriet Barnett Haines

    I thnk they want it this way. I really do. It is an example of governmental bureaucracy not really caring or in tune with the mandates of their constituents. How about a letter campaign to our representatives in Hartford? The privatization of the DMV is long called for and with budget crunches, I can not see why it would not be first on the chopping block.

    • Government bureaucrats have no incentive to do a good job.

      • Let’s change that!!! We act like we are powerless to change anything. Charter schools have given public education something to think about. Set up a private company to handle a segment of DMV and see what they can do.

  21. I was born and raised in CT., but I also lived in FL.,CA. and TN., and these states were typical not bad in the waiting process. And I’m not complaining towards all CT. DMV’s only the worst one which is the Bridgeport, CT.! To be there all day just to get an ID for my son which was crazy, finally he got it so he took off towards the car and then I look at it ….. Say’s female on it!! He was so pissed, yeah he should’ve took his time to look at it but I don’t know if its a guy thing in being inpatient so anyways we went back and I was told we have to come back tomorrow because they closed the doors and were closing! So disappointing! I notice the employee who served us and did the paper work appeared very tired and when he walked away his pants were hanging low? Like I wanted to see that! I’m telling everyone it’s the Bridgeport location! Someone need’s to fix this place up it’s so disorganized, they should look at other states to get ideas on how to fix it.