Drivers License Offices in booming North Texas are struggling to keep up with growing population, even after promised improvements in the wake of NBC 5 Investigates reports 6 years ago.
The Texas Department of Public Safety, which issues Driver Licenses opened larger “Mega” offices a few years ago to improve service but those offices are very busy.
There were two lines of people out the door of the Carrollton Mega Office on Highway 121 Monday.
The longer, slower line was for people unable to obtain an online appointment for service.
Bonnie Rodriguez stood in that line with her daughter under an umbrella for shelter from the hot August sun Monday.
“We’ve got to get it done today. I’m going out of town and she’s got to drive to school tomorrow,” Rodriguez said.
The Carrollton location is one of five Mega offices in North Texas. Others are in Garland, Southern Dallas, Grand Prairie and Fort Worth.
Rodriguez said she tried all of those other offices online before visiting the Carrollton location.
“I checked all around. There were no appointments anywhere, no appointments,” she said.
The faster line outside the Carrollton office was for people who had succeeded in getting one of the online appointments, but they still were kept outside the building until seats became available at the inside waiting area.
Karen Kusumakar who moved from New York City said she obtained a 2pm appointment at 9am Monday.
“I got here at 1:45, no parking. People are parking up on the grass,” she said. “I’ve never seen it structured this way. Nor have I ever seen online inline, which I actually think is a great idea.”
People with online appointments in Carrollton still waited around an hour after arriving to get a driver license Monday. Those without appointments waited much longer, much of the time outside.
Esther Killingsworth of Fort Worth visited three different DPS offices Monday to complete her business.
She started at a smaller Fort Worth office and found a crowded parking lot, then tried the Hurst DPS office where there were no cars in the lot.
“I’m like, Oh wow, there’s no line,” she said.
It turned out the Hurst office was closed Monday because of electrical problems and no air conditioning.
A sign directed her to the Fort Worth Mega Office on Brentwood Stair Road where the parking lot was also jammed.
“I don’t think it’s my lucky day at all,” she said.
The frustration of obtaining a Texas Driver License is not new.
Six years ago, NBC 5 Investigates found that the DPS had a novel way in which to report wait times at the agency’s North Texas license centers.
At the time, the DPS did not count the amount of time people waited in long lines outside, classifying that as only the “pre-wait” period.
It was only after a person managed to get inside the door that the clock started ticking to determine an official wait time.
DPS Director Steve McCraw said at the time that the long waits were “unexcusable…it has to change.”
McCraw also said there was a plan to fix the problem, one that has since resulted in construction of the five mega-licensing centers in North Texas, with two more in other parts of the state.
Asked at the time how long it would take for the long lines to shrink, the DPS director said: “If it’s more than two years, you are going to be talking to somebody else, okay, because I’m not a very patient person.”
McCraw, who is still on the job, could not be reached for comment on this story.
Instead, a spokesperson issued a statement saying the state’s fast-growing population is the reason the longs lines still haven’t gone away, despite the new mega-centers.
“The department will continue to work with the legislature to obtain the resources needed to meet this growing demand, and to provide quality customer service that Texans expect and deserve,” the statement added.
In the meantime, the DPS suggested people can often avoid long waits and still get what they need by going online or by phone.
Many renewals can be obtained without an in person visit.