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The Mast-Head: The New D.M.V.

Thu, 01/06/2022 - 12:26

A friend of The Star phoned the other day with an important observation: While the pandemic has created havoc in so many aspects of life, Covid-19 has turned out to be the one thing that could finally save the Department of Motor Vehicles.

For decades, New Yorkers dreaded the D.M.V., not only for the long waits but for the generally surly staff who seemed to be promoted based solely on how intimidating they could be. Not any more: Our friend said that his spouse was in and out of her appointment for a new “Real ID” driver’s license in minutes. They were both floored, he said.

Not everything during the pandemic has gone perfectly for the department. But things like hand-addressed envelopes posted by remote-working employees, and official documents spit out of home printers running low on toner, could be looked past. For the most part the D.M.V. was able to adapt under pressure.

As if on cue, the D.M.V. press office has reported that as of year’s end, the time that visitors took to complete transactions fell from an average of 45 minutes in January 2020 to under 10 minutes in December 2021 on Long Island and in New York City. Customer satisfaction rose to at or near 9 on a 10-point scale, based on quarterly surveys.

Reservations are one big reason that things have hit the fast lane at D.M.V. offices, but another is online services, about 60 types of which can be completed from the comfort of one’s own couch. I experienced this first-hand; in the fall, a cheerful clerk told me that I could have registered my dinghy remotely. With what looked like a wink, “You really ought to do this,” she said. Thank you, my friend, I will.


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