COLUMBUS (WCMH) — When you know your favorite restaurant is going to be packed, sometimes you can call ahead and get on “the list” and begin your waiting process as you gather up your family and make your way there.
The DeWine Administration is trying to do a similar thing with service at the BMV, that place that just about everyone dreads going to due to waiting, waiting and more waiting.
That is until now.
A new pilot program was announced Monday that will be in place in 12 BMV locations around the state.
Most of the locations are in central Ohio and only a few in areas away from the central hub.
The pilot program is an online check in, much like call ahead seating.
You go to the BMV website and select the “Get in Line Online” button. Punch in your zip code and are given a list of participating locations. You can then see what the average wait times are at the 10 closest locations to you. Select the one you want to go to, and sign in using your information and phone number.
Once you have done that, you’ll get a text confirming, and another when it is getting close to your turn at the front of the line.
You have a 4-hour window to then go do what you need to do, and at your leisure, swing by the BMV and pop into line.
When you get there, you’ll check in with your phone number at a kiosk and be put in your place in line, but never more than three from the front of the line.
With at least two people in front of you, there will still be a little bit of a wait, but officials are hoping it isn’t too long.
There were plenty of people who think this is a pretty good idea.
Busy people with busy lives like Angela Francis, who has waited in a BMV line for two hours in the past, was ready to try the new program immediately.
As she was driving up to the BMV, she saw the signs on the doors and tried it out in the parking lot.
She saw the wait was only eight minutes, so she signed up to check it out and went inside because to her that wasn’t too long of a wait.
“I think it’s really beneficial not having to come and sit for two hours while I could go get other stuff done,” said Francis.
Turns out the system still has a few bugs to work out.
Angela and a few other people who tried the system out Monday found the wait time was miscalculated. Because they all looked at it at the same time, and decided to sign up, it told them all the estimated wait time was eight minutes.
Ultimately, some of them ended up waiting closer to 30 minutes to be served.
“It’s a pilot program, right? You’ve got to expect it’s not going to work perfectly the first time probably. But, it’s good,” said Janet Reiss, one of the early adopters trying out the system.
Still, Reiss said she won’t be using the system for another two years or so, which brings up an issue some have with this approach – people don’t go to the BMV all that often.
The BMV gets roughly 16 million visits annually, but for many people, it’s just to get or renew their driver’s license.
People that lease their vehicle never have to visit the BMV for registration or tags for their plates – the dealer handles the former and the latter can be done through the mail.
“I can’t tell you the last time I came to the BMV for that. The only time I come is for my actual license,” said John Fandrich.
Fandrich was at the BMV Monday for his driver’s license. He tried the system out as well and was less than impressed, mostly due to the bugs causing longer waits than anticipated.
“It’s like a restaurant. If you go in and you know that you are waiting 15 minutes, you’re excited to be seated in 15 minutes. If it takes 45, you’re gonna be a little bit frustrated. It’s almost better to not give a time, then to be really wrong on the time,” said Fandrich.
Fandrich, Reiss, and Francis all agree that the system has potential, but the bugs need to be worked out.
The system will provide data to the state that will allow for better management oversight of the branches. They will be able to identify someone who is just slow at certain types of tasks and may need more training, for instance.
It will also provide them with a wealth of other data, and as Gov. Mike DeWine points out, things really need to change.
When reflecting on recent wait times at BMV locations around the state that averaged over an hour, DeWine said, “We certainly can do better than this.”
The $20,000 pilot project hopes to prove that. If it does, it will cost an estimated $80,000 to purchase the equipment for the rest of the state and an undetermined amount of money to pay for the software and maintenance of it.
The Lt. Governor Jon Husted said that is something they would have to talk to the legislature about.
The 12 locations participating in the pilot project are:
- 22125 Rockslide Rd., Bedford, OH
- 104 W. Spring Valley Rd., Centerville, OH
- 1583 Alum Creek Drive, Columbus, OH
- 112 Dillmont Drive, Columbus, OH
- 2970 Hayden Run Plaza, Columbus, OH
- 4503 Kenny Road, Columbus, OH
- 4161 West Broad Street, Columbus, OH
- 5287 Westpointe Plaza, Columbus, OH
- 8210 County Rd. 140 Suite A, Findlay, OH
- 3040 Southwest Blvd., Grove City, OH
- 4740 Cemetery Road, Hilliard, OH
- 17 Cherri Park Square, Westerville, OH