Report uncovers secret DMV for lawmakers while wait times balloon elsewhere

SACRAMENTO -- The state legislature this week gave the Department of Motor Vehicles an additional $16.6 million in an attempt to alleviate the hours-long wait times at the agency’s field offices -- but a report from the Sacramento Bee has uncovered a secret branch at the state Capitol that exists expressly for officials.

The DMV will use the money to hire 230 people to conduct driver’s license and ID card processing, Director Jean Shiomoto said in a statement Wednesday.

The legislature had threatened to audit the agency to get to the bottom of what is causing the lines spilling out its doors, but decided instead to let it concentrate on finding solutions.

On Thursday, the Sacramento Bee reported it had uncovered a secret DMV branch within the state Capitol that exists expressly to serve elected and appointed officials, both current and retired. It’s been there since the 1990s.

According to the startup YoGov, the average wait time at the DMV on Hope Street in Los Angeles is about 3 hours. In the Bay Area, drivers can even pay YoGov to have someone wait in line for them.

The snaking lines prompted a hearing at the state Assembly on Tuesday, with Shiomoto testifying the protracted waiting is “not what we ever want our customers to go through,” according to the L.A. Times.

But lawmakers expressed their constituents’ frustration, the newspaper said. “No one should have to wait hours to receive a basic government service,” Assemblyman Jim Frazier told Shiomoto.

The DMV blames the wait times on demand for the new Real ID card, which will be the form of state identification required for federal purposes such as boarding a flight or entering a military base starting in October 2020.

The agency says it has already hired 500 new employees in response. It also sent 289 staff members from its headquarters and other state agencies, including the California Highway Patrol, to its busiest locations.

It even added what it calls “triage employees” to assist those waiting in lines that extend outside a location’s front doors.

Earlier this summer, the DMV began opening on Saturdays at some locations. Weekend service is now available at 60 field offices across the state.

However, the legislature said it still ultimately expects explanation of why wait times are so long and how the DMV will further decrease them.