Dave Richards' Weekly Column in The Woonsocket Call

Dave Richards for August 23rd…………

--Would I bore you if I brought up the Rhode Island Division of Motor Vehicles? I’m not here to complain. Complaining points out all the negatives without suggesting a solution. I’m here to fix the DMV. Read on.

The RIDMV is not alone as a target of public ridicule. It seems to be universal across the U.S.A. Joe Callahan told me there is a movie out the youngsters like (he has a young daughter) called Zootopia in which a line in the dialog calls for the group to all “go to the DMV” and it is met with groans and universal dread by the characters in the movie.

Time after time Rhode Island governors have come and gone and they were all going to “fix” the DMV. Tens of thousands of dollars are spent on new computer technology which we’re told is the final answer to eliminate long wait times and confusion. I was told by one DMV manager more than ten years ago that the new whiz-bang computer system they were about to install would make it so I could sit at work in my office and look in on the web to see wait times in real time and could choose to come to the DMV when the place was less busy. That system was never deployed for some reason and the money was wasted.

I’ve gone to our local Woonsocket DMV twice over the last week. Each time it was a proverbial zoo. The first time I even had to park in one of the last remaining parking spots at World War II Veterans Memorial Park because there was no room at all in the DMV parking lot. Yesterday was my second visit. I got there at 8:15 in the morning because they open at 8:30. There were 40 people in line in front of me waiting for the doors to open. It makes me think the reason they didn’t launch that great software years ago which would have told me when there would be a lull in the crowds at the DMV office is because there never is a lull in the crowds there.

I was registering a vehicle I purchased. The first time I went there, after nearly two hours I finally was called up and saw an operative at one of the five windows. This person probably meant well, but they gave me completely erroneous information about the types of registrations I should consider for my vehicle. Regardless, another bit of information was out of place, so I had to return after the form was re-done. Being nearly 3:30pm (closing time) that day, I had to come back another time.

I will say this for the DMV. The “take a number” system they have does have the huge advantage that after you have suffered through the lines and waiting once, if you need to return they will give you this blue slip which acts like a “speed pass”, and after you wait again through the long line to get a number, at least they give you a number which will be called in only a few minutes. That feature saved me another hour at least.

I see one other positive thing about the generally frustrating experience of a visit to the RIDMV. They have such a reputation for being frustrating that it causes most people to try hard to be prepared before they get there. Most people I saw were trying hard to get it right the first time. But here’s the rub. The average citizen has no way of being sure they really are duly and truly prepared to meet the operative at the window when they finally get there. But they used to have a way, years ago.

Do you remember when the main office for the RIDMV was temporarily housed at the old Apex store in Pawtucket? I do. And I remember when I walked in from the street I was greeted by large friendly signs hanging from the ceilings over each department so I could easily see where I needed to go. But I also remember something else. And it’s the one thing which would fix the DMV once and for all. When I walked in, a DMV employee walked up to me and greeted me immediately. In a warm and friendly manner, they determined what I needed to get done on this visit, checked my forms to see if they were filled out properly, that I had all the documents I needed, and even got me a form to fill out if one was missing. Then they pointed me to the place on the floor I needed to go to transact my business. Wow. And this person, by the way, was one who knew exactly what was required to get you out of that building with your business done fast.

It worked so well they stopped doing it. Now, you stand in a serpentine line until you are greeted by an operative sitting behind a counter with a painfully-efficient-bordering-on-unfriendly manner who doesn’t check your forms. The sign says to not go see them without all your forms filled out but how would you know if something was wrong with them? They so busy pushing you along that they don’t even ask enough questions to learn if you know what you should be doing there.

The Woonsocket Branch Office of the RIDMV will be moving to Woonsocket Plaza soon, where the McDonald’s restaurant was originally. I hope they don’t come up with any new whiz-bang computer systems when they move there. I just wish would they remember those golden days of the past when they actually got it right for a while and I hope they start doing it that way again.

--That’s what I think. What do you think? Comments to: dave@onworldwide.com or postal mail to Dave Richards, WOON Radio, 985 Park Avenue, Woonsocket, RI 02895-6332. Thanks for reading.


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