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August 28, 2010 10:45 PM UTC

A modest proposal

  • by: DavidThi808

Most voters see the state in operation in one place – the D.M.V. As such, most people measure the efficiency of the state by the efficiency of the D.M.V. If someone is in and out of the DMV quickly with a minimum of hassle, they will leave with a positive impression of the state administration.

And by the same measure, if the effort is slow, frustrating, and requires hours of waiting (ie what normally occurs), then they will leave with a very negative impression.

If every other part of the state’s administration is so efficient and effective that it’s a model for the private sphere, that has less impact than what people see at the DMV.

If I was Chief Operating Officer for the state I would set a goal that 95% of the visitors to the DMV spend 5 minutes or less waiting (10 minutes if they have a driving test). And then I would focus on that, measuring and publishing the results in every office for each day, week, and month. Find the offices that are successful, find out what they do differently, and duplicate it.

This would be a more powerful counter argument to the “eliminate fraud & waste” argument than anything else than could be brought up. It would also be a strong argument that additional taxes would be effectively and efficiently spent.

I think this is eminently doable, because everyone who shows up at the DMV in the morning is taken care of by the close of business. A customer focused business administration would be all over this.


62 thoughts on “A modest proposal

  1. Most people don’t know the difference between State DMV, where they go to renew their licenses, and County Clerk’s offices where they go to renew their plates.

    Solve that problem first.

      1. I have often wound up going to the County Clerk (Arapahoe, Prince Street) to get my plates renewed because I tend to procrastinate about a few things and that’s one of them.  Last week day of my grace period has often seen me there over the years and the last few times have gone very well.  Didn’t have to take a number just for renewal, renewal line went pretty fast, clerks really nice. Am I missing something?  

        1. I’m just differentiating the two types of offices.  David’s talking about State, but he put up a cartoon about what’s done in the Counties here in CO.

          I usually renew plates by mail, but even when I have had to go in person for some reason (like new plates) it’s never a zoo.

          Most people’s exposure to motor vehicle offices is really to the County offices, as you get and renew plates more frequently than you get or renew a driver’s license.

          We’ll see how I do at State next year, as my license will expire next November and I’m too old to renew THAT by mail.

            1. I wear readers, but I also have a little astigmatism.  I have glasses for the astigmatism, but I have hated them since Day 1.  I really feel I see better without them.

              I can still pick out 5th magnitude stars at night without the glasses.

          1. But every kid first learns about government inefficiency when at age 15+ they run to get their learners permit, and spend the day waiting. Then age 16 to get their license and wait again. I’ve been through this 3 times.

            And they go back again at age 21 and wait again. It starts them off figuring that the government is an incredibly slow inefficient beast.

  2. Brilliant. I’m sure no one else has ever thought that reducing waiting times at the DMV would be a good idea.

    There is nothing here – no analysis, no substance. How did you arrive at this magical 5 minutes? And what, specifically, would you do to get to that target? Remember, you can’t hire more staff, you can’t open new offices, and you have an ever increasing web of Federal and state laws which govern the process of issuing identification.

    If it is eminently doable then I’m sure you can explain to us how to do it. Clearly, you have all of the answers.

    1. letting people who schedule a time slot (“appointment”) have preference over anyone who just wandered in off the street — it works for the barber.

      posting approximate current wait times on the internet.  That could relieve some peak time pressures.

      moving as many functions as possible to the web — accept e-mail (pdf) documents and online payments.

      and, by the way, do I even really need a sticker on my license plate?  Can’t any law enforcement officer quickly verify a current registration by the license plate number these days?

      There are ways, I’m sure.

      1. Worked beautifully.

        How difficult is that?  And no internet then!  

        One step in efficiency in CO would be making a DMV instead of this two step tango of licenses and registrations in two places.

        Very, very weird.

        Other than what I just mentioned, in all my years of visiting licensing/registration offices in three different states, I’ve never been annoyed.  The employees are almost so well trained, they have the answers, they know what needs to be done.  That one doesn’t have the correct paperwork or something is not their fault.  

    2. Why can’t my kids go online, fill everything out, have it verify/validate everything it can, and then give them an appointment time. Then they walk in, provide any papers the clerk needs to see, the clerk calls up what they entered and approves it.

      As to having all the answers, I would hope someone in the Dept. of Revenue would know how to do this. If not, maybe they should look for some new management there.

  3. Virginia privatized it’s computer systems a few years ago.  A couple of the low bid firms have a problem keeping it running. The system servers went down a few days ago and might be up Monday.  I like the excuse that the problem was not big enough to trigger the backup systems.

    At least Virginia has a system that sort of works, when it works.  Where Colorado just needs another year or two to get there.

      1. I suggested to Bernie Buscher last year and to Andrew Romanoff (when he was still speaker) that the state ought to consider creating a volunteer technical review board that would be staffed by tech industry professionals. The board could perform review and monitoring of state contracts for IT systems development and operations. I always figured that oversight by a few good impartial system engineers and architects could have headed off most of the problems in systems like CBMS.

        Also, have you visited lately? You can renew both your license plates and your drivers license online.

  4. What DMV offices do you frequent? In the last couple years, I’ve gotten plates for a new car, had a title re-issued, gotten a handicapped parking card for an older relative, renewed plates in person, and got an updated driver’s license. None of these took longer than about 10 minutes.

    In any case, these intermittent contacts with “the state” are so few and far between, and almost always involve shelling out money, it’s doubtful even the most enjoyable experience is going to support “a strong argument that additional taxes would be effectively and efficiently spent.”

    1. .

      There are also 2 new ones that folks mostly don’t know about.  

      As of last Thursday, actual wait time (anecdotally) at the new one up North was about 10 minutes for plate renewal and 25 minutes for license renewal.


  5. But I agree with Steve. If it was so eminently doable, it would have been done I expect. It’s not like everyone else looked at the DMV and said “My! What a paragon of efficiency we have here! Let’s replicate this model everywhere.”

    What exactly do you think could be done when the first campaign ad from our presumptive governor explicitly states he will reduce government spending. Maybe reduce it everywhere else except DMV? Or do you have secret knowledge of hidden waste, fraud and abuse occurring in the DMV? Or is it more true that fixing anything will cost money which we don’t have presently?

    1. If it was so eminently doable, it would have been done I expect.

      I think because it’s always been inefficient people assume it has to remain that way. And as U.A. posts below, a lot of Ritter’s appointments are at best marginally competent – people like that are not going to significantly improve anything other than their own benefits.

  6. It took less than twenty minutes, from “take a number” to being handed the temporary license.  The picture one arrived in the mail within the week.

    Now, I know that Ritter cut some DVM offices to save money, so I don’t know if that is what you are talking about.

    I am old, so I can’t do mail in renewals or wait ten years.  The car is almost as old as I am, so I haven’t gotten license plates in years.  

    So I think David’s idea of looking at successful stations makes sense.

    The Driver’s License bureau in Jeffco at 19th and Pierce took about 20 minutes.

    Let’s hear about other specific experiences.  I am not so sure that there is a problem.

    1. if you know where to go. I prefer the Arapahoe County Admin building, which is actually very close to where I live despite the fact that I’m a Denver resident. Never a long wait at that window, although it usually looks like you have to wait 15-20 minutes if you’re getting plates.

      On plates, I’m out of luck. The SW Denver office (by the Bear Valley King Soopers) just blows sometimes. I had to go to register a car I bought, and despite being 5th in the new plates queue (there are two other queues, one for renewals only and one for dealers), it took over half an hour, and there was maybe 15 minutes where they didn’t call a single number for any queue. There were two clerks who didn’t call anyone the entire time I was there – I kept an eye on them while I was finally being helped.

      Renewal by mail strictly from here on out.

  7. 1. When I go to get something done with license PLATES, I go to a County office. My last visit too 5 minutes and the COUNTY clerks were very friendly. So, I guess that I am happy with King John’s regime.

    2. When I go to get something done with regard to my DRIVER’s license, I go to a STATE office. My last visit took almost an hour, but I only go once every 20 years now.

    3. You want to make me happy? Eliminate the useless and annoying emissions testing. Even 10 year old cars don’t fail anymore.

    4. In my typical dealings with STATE government I find the SoS office to be very efficient as I do most everything online. Even Probate Court was, relatively speaking, easy.

    5. So, as the COO for the STATE, what do you focus on?

    1. 1. My last purchase of an out of state used car chewed up at least three hours in Denver, most of it spent waiting, although it required three trips.

      2. I have given up on changing the address on my license and will wait until renewal.

      3. Emissions testing was the easiest part of my recent experience, provided I showed up with cash (I didn’t) or a check (ditto, I’m a guy.) One repeat trip there because I went at the end of the day.

      4. Agreed about the SoS. Creating LLCs has become habit forming.

      5. DavidThi808 and I both have too much experience with observing state government procure IT systems at 3 x the cost and 1/3 the utility. My experience makes me believe that Ritter surrounded himself with incompetents, and the incompetence trickled down. So as COO I would attack the issue of how to raise the caliber of senior executives in state government, which may be impossible. Who would want these jobs other then incompetents marking time so they can transfer to the private sector to market their specialized knowledge of the state bureaucracy?

      P.S. Why are people so bitchy about DavidThi808’s weekend posts? If he wasn’t putting something up how could we waste time until the magic starts again on Monday?

  8. This kind of diary is what you knew you’d get. Don’t complain now.

    Though I don’t think I’ve ever seen a front-paged diary where there’s literally nothing original whatsoever above the fold. So that’s a new achievement.

    As for the actual content (such as there is), others are right to point out that the DMV is actually not that slow, and that this request is so trite that any hack stand-up comic could open with either this or something about how men and women are different.

    But aside from that, people will always complain about the DMV, just like they’ll always complain about the post office. It’s no longer about their actual experiences. They complain because their parents complained. People without cars who haven’t been to the DMV in five years complain about it, even if they had a great experience that one time. It’s one of those cultural references many people share long after forgetting the original context. It’s like the “We don’t need no stinking badges” of libertarian politics.

    1. why was David’s FPE slot “unearned”? I thought these were voted on, or is it some dark, satanic ritual the “dead govs” do (whoever THEY are…)?

      1. Three of us were neck and neck throughout the voting so the dead govs gave all 3 of us FPE rights. I was third and a couple of people who really Really REALLY didn’t want me to win got very upset that it was expanded to be all 3 of us.

            1. but only thing came back were the poll to elect and the announcement of CT and V as FPE and David as “guest author” (whatever that really means).

              No biggie, just trying to get a grip on the internal politics here. (HA!)

  9. If it’s fast and relatively efficient – like getting license plates and tag renewals most of the time in Colorado – it’s overfunded and needs to be cut.

    If it’s slow and painful, it’s too bureaucratic and needs to be cut- the staff  just need to figure out how to do more with less.

    Under no circumstance, ever, shall any locality or state ever copy or mimic another locality or state that has figured out a way to performa  function of gov’t better, i.e., faster, cheaper, etc.

    Oh and by the way- where is the gov’t to get the resources to do the kind of marketing DT is talking about?  We have a memetic problem- DMV is always slow and painful – except it’s really not. So it’s a marketing problem, not an ops issue.

    1. First off, I’ve had 3 daughters each go in twice and it was a minimum of an hour each time. One time up in Ft. Collins it was almost 4 hours. So for Boulder & Ft. Collins there is a consistent problem.

      Second, based on the comments above it sounds like some offices have figured out how to operate efficiently. It would be nice if the state would look at what they do (and don’t do) and replicate it.

      Third, I think people will be very appreciative of an office they can get fast service at. No they don’t want to see half the staff sitting around doing nothing, but if everyone is busy and the service is quick – voters will be very happy with that.

      Fourth, the marketing would be pretty easy. Put a sign up in each office listing the percentage of people that wait under 5 minutes. A big sign. Give people a time-stamped number when they walk in and ask them to return it when served and give them their wait time. Very eeasy to do and it will have an impact.

      1. don’t do what others do.

        BTW-  getting a driver’s license should be hard since It becomes the de facto “gov’t issued photo id” that establishes so much.

        And I don’t recall where I got my current driver license.  Just that it doesn’t expire for like a hundred years.  So focusing  on that one thing even if you fix it, may not help.

        Instead- fix UI benefits.

      2. David, most of what I want to say had been said, so to save you time, I’ll be brief.

        Madco said it better, as usual, just because something works well in one place doesn’t mean it should be replicated (especially a Boulder/Denver model).

        The state does not run systems better than local governments. You’ve complained about CBMS, also take a look at Revenue’s antique system and ask how much revenue is necessary to revamp that.

        Everything you speak of costs money – more money than you think. How is the state going to pay for it?

        1. 1. When something works well in one office, other offices should look at the differences to see what makes sense for them. You are right it should not be blindly replicated, but it should be evaluated.

          2. Making a system more efficient generally will save the state money.

          1. We’ve looked at quite a few bills over the years that would have saved quite a bit of money in time. The problem is, ironically, we have to spend money to save money.

            And we don’t have the money. Not an excuse, a reality. Wish it were otherwise, because then we would be able to have much more substantive discussions about cost savings – instead of only, “cut, cut, cut…”.

            1. I understand how right now savings have to pay off in under a year. But I still think they should at least have each efficient office list out what they think their efficiency is due to, and forward that to the other offices.

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