DMV wait times may be longer than they report

CRANSTON, R.I. (WPRI) — Going to the Department of Motor Vehicles is part of life. Officials there told us one of their main goals is reducing your wait time, though you might be surprised at exactly how their clock works.

Statistics reviewed by Target 12 showed wait times are down sharply at the DMV’s Cranston branch, but we’ve learned some of the time you spend in line there is not considered part of your wait.

When you enter the Cranston branch, your first stop is a line to get your ticket. We visited one day in April and watched as customers were asked if they had the proper documentation and the right forms needed to complete their transactions. Then they got a ticket to wait in the next line.

DMV administrator Anthony Silva said the two-line system was set up about two years ago to streamline the process, following countless incidents when people waited hours for nothing.

“They’d spend a whole day to find out they had to come back the next day to spend another full day because they were missing a document,” he said.

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We asked Silva how much time the first line adds to the average wait on a bad day.

“On the worst day of the year, and that’s a handful of days, it could add 15 to 20 minutes,” he responded.

No matter how long the first line is, when the DMV calculates your average wait times, that first stretch of time is not included. They only start the clock when you receive one of those tickets for the second line.

We talked with a handful of customers and found out they weren’t aware of that.

“I think that’s wrong. They should put it all together,” said one man. “They hand you another ticket and you have to wait in another line!” exclaimed another. “It’s a little bit deceptive,” said one woman of the policy.

We asked Silva if he thinks it’s deceptive to say the average wait is a certain amount of time when it doesn’t include the second line. He said “it would be deceptive if we didn’t let people know. But as you saw, there are signs in this building that tell you there’s an additional wait. We put it on our monthly reports and when it goes on our website, it’ll be very clear.”

According to Silva, the average wait times are monitored every day, compared to the year before, and often passed on to other state officials. The general public doesn’t have access to the statistics yet, but Silva says he’s willing to share the wait times with anyone who asks.

He also told Target 12 the DMV calculates two wait times. Before the two-line system, the average wait for most transactions was more than three hours. Now, Silva says its down to 32 minutes.

The DMV also tracks the average wait for the transactions that take the longest. That maximum wait time was 5 to 7 hours. Now, he says it’s 2 and a half hours.

Silva also told us the DMV’s long term goal is to add the time you wait in the first line into their overall average wait times.

“I think we will do it at some point in time,” he said. “We’re just not ready yet. We’re not ready with the software. The system isn’t capable of doing that.”

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