DMV’s lines grow long, patrons’ patience run thin

Maritza Ayala spent six hours at the Woodbridge Department of Motor Vehicles service center Tuesday, and Thursday she returned to a line that was out the door.

The Woodbridge woman took the written test Tuesday but there was not enough time for the road test. Virginia requires her to retake the tests because she had been out of the country for more than a year in El Salvador, she said.

She was among a dozen people standing outside the DMV to keep from going over an occupancy limit of 135.

“What can I do? What else can I do? I need my license,” she said.

The problem, which legislators say they will fix when they meet in Richmond beginning Wednesday, are $44 million in cuts made in October to the DMV budget over the next two years, amounting to 7.6 percent and 14.5 percent annually to its $140 million budget. Twelve DMV offices were closed, bringing the state’s total down to 61. The DMV laid off nearly 600 employees.

Democrats and Republicans are arguing whether the cuts went too far for the DMV. Since the summer, the state has been wrestling with how to close a $2 billion budget hole, and many agencies were cut more than the DMV.

“You may be delayed entering the building,” a sign states on the front door to the Woodbridge office. A security guard made sure not too many people entered the lobby Thursday afternoon, and the line to the drive-through window snaked around the building. Five of the 16 service counters inside were manned.

“Those folks are doing the best they can with the resources they have,” said DMV spokesman Jonathan Mosher. The DMV serves 37,000 people a day, he said.

Still, people were not in good moods Thursday.

“Two days off work doing this,” a Dale City man said of him and his wife trying to get county tags. They spent four and a half hours on Tuesday — first in the drive-through line where the teller told them they needed to come inside, then inside where they were told they needed to go to the McCoart Administrative Center to show they had paid their car tax.

“The line curled around the parking lot and back around and came back in,” he said of Tuesday. They were hoping to be out in two hours Thursday.

Mosher said 19 transactions can be conducted over the phone or via the Internet — a fourth of all the people who go to the DMV do not really need to be there, he said.

From a $30.50 vehicle registration, $4 goes to the DMV, $16 goes to highway maintenance, $3 goes to the transportation trust fund, $2 to EMS/rescue squads, $1.50 to state police, $2 to anti-terrorism and $2 for emissions.

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