I-TEAM: Long Lines, Short Tempers at New Jersey MVCs

"I run a $65 million business," said one driver. "We would be out of business if we ran it like this."

Everyone has a DMV horror story.

Whether it’s sitting in a waiting room waiting for a number that feels like it will never be called or a pile of paperwork that drivers have to fill out, it’s not hard to find someone willing to complain about the DMV – or in the New Jersey’s case, the MVC.

But after recent instances of issues at area offices made front-page news – including a widespread computer outage that spurred massive delays at DMVs across Connecticut last month and the New Jersey mom who had to get Gov. Christie to intervene to get a replacement learner’s permit – the I-Team began looking into complaints from some of the 6 million licensed drivers in the Garden State.

The findings, from long lines to short tempers, weren’t surprising but the agency’s head said it is looking to make things easier with online and mail-in services.

On a recent day an MVC branch in Lodi, customers were immediately greeted with a sign that warned that because of high volume they might not be served. Driver Gary Batta said he was told the computers were down as his wait climbed near 1 1/2 hours.

Businessman Fred Krizer, meanwhile, said he’d go out of business if he treated customers like that.

"I run a $65 million business," he said. "We would be out of business if we ran it like this."

The complaints extended to Rahway, where contractor Patrick Cassio called the I-Team after computer systems went down while he was waiting in line to change the title on his new car.

"I thought it was a disaster," he said. "You had just chaos."

Rahway Mayor Samson Steinman, who used to be a manager at the town’s MVC, blamed state administrators for issues. He said the state closed offices, was responsible for inadequate staffing and tested new electronic systems at some of the MVC’s busiest offices.

"People have to take off work, they call out sick, they take vacation days and that has ramifications throughout the business community here in New Jersey," he said.

Abe Almont, a mechanic, knows what the mayor is talking about. He said each hour he waits in the MVC he loses money.

"I have to take off work," he said. "That means no money."

MVC Chief Administrator Raymond Martinez told the I-Team that the agency is trying to offer more services by mail and online to lessen the pain.

"We do 25 million motor vehicle transactions a year," he said. "Our goal is to have good customer service throughout the year. By and large, contacts go well."

Martinez added that the MVC offers more office hours to drivers than any neighboring state, but suggested that drivers try to come during less busy times – like the middle of the week or earlier in the month – to cut down on headaches.

"You can come in the middle of the week or the middle of the month," he said. "You will have a shorter wait time than if you come on a Saturday or at the end of the month."

But it proved little solace for Trish Triner, who said she had tried three times in one week to make it through the lines, but again left the Lodi MVC with an expired license.

"I guess I’ll just try somewhere else again," she said.

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