Incremental improvements — shorter waits, credit cards and more

“I’m not naïve about the challenges at the DMV, its technology is Byzantine,” Gov. Gavin Newsom said at a July 23 press conference when he released a report from his Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV) Strike Team.
DMV’s reputation has been declining for years. Long lines, long telephone waits, poor responses, lack of current and appropriate technology have all contributed to the public’s loss of reliance on a vital state agency. Two-hour waits were common, according to the report, and so are 55-minute hold times at the call center.
With days of his inauguration, Newsom created a “reinvention” strike team to review and to assess how to make changes that would create a modern and responsive DMV.
The improvements will take time and will be systematic and sequential. “We want the public to feel we’re using tax dollars wisely and that the government can work. One of the most important places to start is the DMV,” Newsom said.
The Strike Team’s leader is Marybel Batjer, secretary of the government operations agency. She brought members of her agency to the team.
The major concern was that the DMV’s inadequacies and problems would make it difficult, if not prevent, its compliance with the October 2020 deadline for the REAL ID ⎯ the federal law that sets standards for how states issue driver’s licenses and ID cards and their acceptance for federal purposes such as boarding a domestic commercial flight, or entering a military installation or federal facility that requires ID.
The Department of Homeland Security issued this statement in April, “The Transportation Security Administration (TSA) is reminding travelers that beginning October 1, 2020, every traveler must present a REAL ID-compliant driver’s license, or another acceptable form of identification, to fly within the United States.
“Travelers will begin seeing new signs at airports nationwide in the coming weeks to remind people that REAL ID-compliant licenses or other acceptable forms of ID, such as a valid passport, federal government Personal Identity Verification card or U.S. military ID, will be mandatory for air travel beginning on October 1, 2020. Critically important, on October 1, 2020, individuals who are unable to verify their identity will not be permitted to enter the TSA checkpoint and will not be allowed to fly.”
The strike team, with the help of consultants, determined that nearly 28.2 million Californians might request a REAL ID in the next 19 months. With this deadline, the team began reviewing processes, staffing levels, and other agency work.
Another concern was that DMV was not capable of accepting credit cards for payment of services, such as issuing drivers licenses. In March, the strike team issued a contract to begin the development of this capability in DMV field offices.
Examples of other actions taken or being taken to improve the DMV are going directly to workplaces to simplify the requests for REAL ID and redesigning the agency’s website.
In a few months, the hold times have been reduced to 42 minutes and 36,000 more calls have been taken than during the same period in 2018.
Further changes designed to improve DMV’s service are being studied, tested, and implemented. The goal is still the issuance of all needed REAL IDs by October 2020.
Along with the report, Newsom announced several new appointments to the DMV’s management. Steven Gordon, formerly of Cisco and zTransformations, is the new DMV Director. Other slots, which Newsom filled, include chief deputy director, deputy director of communication and deputy director for legislation.