Long lines are continuing to frustrate New Jersey drivers trying to get a license or register their car.
The Motor Vehicles Commission re-opened from its COVID-19 shutdown on July 7th, and the backlog of people who waited during the pandemic has created outdoor lines that snake around buildings, causing customers to camp out overnight.
“If you don't get here by a certain time, you might as well come another day. You gotta get here early,” said Kevin Johnson, who arrived at the Springfield office at 4:30 a.m. There were about 30 people in front of him, some who had arrived beginning at midnight.
Rosemary Teal arrived at 5:45 a.m. and stood with the help of a walker.
“No allowance for the handicapped. No bathrooms. No nothing,” Teal said. “This is ridiculous.”
The Motor Vehicles Commission, however, says it is a myth that customers need to line up all night. “On any day other than Saturday, if you arrive by 8:00am at all but a few of our Centers, you will get a ticket and be served that day,” said William Connolly, spokesman for the MVC.
Although Connelly acknowledges it might be necessary to get to a DMV office by 6 a.m. to be served that day, he said long lines that snake around the block are not necessarily a sign of dysfunction.
“We simply can’t cram 100 or 200 people inside an agency like we used to,” he said. And with social distancing, the single file line appears much longer than the same number that was waiting inside. ”We still expect the lines to get shorter, but as long as COVID-19 remains a threat in indoor spaces, there will be people waiting outside the facility under even the best of conditions.”
I returned to the Springfield office later in the morning on Wednesday, and in fact, the long line was gone.
Regardless of the long lines, some New Jersey drivers also say figuring out where to go has been confusing. Almost all of the people I spoke with in Springfield on Tuesday had already tried to get their car registration and failed.
Angelo Addasso had already tried to register his car in his home town of Bayonne.
“This is my third time, but each time it’s because I learned something different,” said Angelo Addasso, who had tried to go to his local DMV in Bayonne. “The first time I went too late and the second time I found out I couldn’t do anything for my title there.”
That’s because to make the process more efficient, the MVC has split their offices so that half are providing driver licenses and the others, including the Springfield office, only do vehicle registrations.
“I've been trying to let people know because there are no signs telling people they aren't doing licenses,” said Susan Zheng of Westfield. “I went to another DMV yesterday, waited an hour and half before they told me they're not doing registrations there, so I had to come this morning.”
The information is online, and the page that explains which locations to visit also tells customers which sites are already full for the day. The MVC has also added to the number of services that can be completed online, and it’s giving people a grace period if the document expired during the pandemic.