COLUMBUS, Ohio (WDTN) – When you know your favorite restaurant is going to be packed, sometimes you can call ahead and get on “the list” and begin your waiting process as you gather up your family and make your way there.
When you arrive, you have saved yourself precious minutes of time and frustration by virtually skipping having to sit in the waiting area for your table to be ready.
If you have unruly kids, they aren’t bothering anyone but you in the car; and if you don’t, then you escape having to endure other people’s progeny running up and down the aisle being bothersome.
Normally this works out fairly well, with the occasional hiccup; you arrive and are seated relatively quickly if not immediately because you had checked ahead of time by calling ahead and you start you evening out on a relatively high note.
The DeWine Administration is trying to do a similar thing with service at the BMV; that place that just about just about everyone dreads going to because they know for the next unknown amount of time they will be sucked into a vortex of despair waiting, and waiting, and waiting while life passes them by.
That is until now.
A new pilot program was announced Monday that will be in place in 12 BMV locations around the state.
Most of the locations are in central Ohio and only a few in areas away from the central hub. A list of locations can be found at the bottom of this story.
The pilot program is an online check in, much like call ahead seating.
You go to the BMV website, select the program Get in Line Online button.
Punch in your zip code and are given a list of participating locations.
You can then see what the average wait times are at the 10 closest locations to you.
Select the one you want to go to, and sign in using your information and phone number.
Once you have done that, you’ll get a text confirming, and another when it is getting close to your turn at the front of the line.
You have a 4-hour window to then go do what you need to do, and at your leisure swing by the BMV and pop into line.
When you get there, you’ll check in with your phone number at a kiosk and be put in your place in line, but never higher than 3 from the front.
With at least two people in front of you, there will still be a little bit of a wait but officials are hoping it isn’t too long.
Meanwhile, all the people who didn’t know about the program, or didn’t take advantage of it due to desire or ability (lack of a phone or internet savvy) and have been sitting there for 45 minutes in line will get to see you breeze in and basically go straight to the front of the line.
Some would say, privilege has its perks and there were plenty of people who think this is a pretty good idea.
Busy people with busy lives like Angela Francis, who has waited in a BMV line for two hours in the past was ready to try the new program immediately.
As she was driving up to the BMV she saw the signs on the doors and tried it out in the parking lot.
She saw the wait was only 8 minutes, so she signed up to check it out and went inside because to her that wasn’t too long of a wait.
“I think it’s really beneficial not having to come and sit for two hours while I could go get other stuff done,” said Francis.
Turns out the system still has a few bugs to work out.
Angela and a few other people who tried the system out today found the wait time was miscalculated. Because they all looked at it at the same time, and decided to sign up as well, it told them all the estimated wait time was 8 minutes.
Ultimately, some of them ended up waiting closer to 30 minutes to be served.
“It’s a pilot program, right? You’ve got to expect it’s not going to work perfectly the first time probably. But, it’s good,” said Janet Reiss, one of the early adopters trying out the system today.
Still Reiss says she won’t be using the system for another two years or so, which brings up an issue some have with this approach; people don’t go to the BMV all that often.
The BMV gets roughly 16 million visits annually; but for many people it’s just to get or renew their driver’s license.
People that lease their vehicle never have to visit the BMV for registration or tags of their plates, the dealer handles the former and the latter can be done through the mail.
“I can’t tell you the last time I came to the BMV for that. The only time I come is for my actual license,” said John Fandrich.
Fandrich was at the BMV today for his driver’s license. He tried the system out as well and was less than impressed, mostly due to the bugs causing longer waits than anticipated; which brings us back to our restaurant analogy.
“It’s like a restaurant; if you go in and you know that you are waiting 15 minutes, you’re excited to be seated in 15 minutes. If it takes 45, you’re gonna be a little bit frustrated. It’s almost better to not give a time, then to be really wrong on the time,” said Fandrich.
Fandrich, Reiss, and Francis all agree that the system has potential but the bugs need to be worked out.
How much time it really saves is up in the air.
The system will provide data to the State that will allow for better management oversight of the branches.
They will be able to identify someone who is just slow at certain types of tasks and may need more training, for instance.
It will also provide them with a wealth of other data; and as the Governor points out things really need to change.
When reflecting on recent wait times at BMV locations around the state that averaged over and hour, DeWine said, “We certainly can do better than this.”
The $20,000 pilot project hopes to prove that. If it does, it will cost and an estimated $80,000 to purchase the equipment for the rest of the state and an undetermined amount of money to pay for the software and maintenance of it.
The Lt. Governor Jon Husted says, that is something they would have to talk to the legislature about.
The 12 locations participating in the pilot project are located at:
22125 Rockslide Rd., Bedford, OH
104 W. Spring Valley Rd., Centerville, OH
1583 Alum Creek Drive, Columbus, OH
112 Dillmont Drive, Columbus, OH
2970 Hayden Run Plaza, Columbus, OH
4503 Kenny Road, Columbus, OH
4161 West Broad Street, Columbus, OH
5287 Westpointe Plaza, Columbus, OH
8210 County Rd. 140 Suite A, Findlay, OH
3040 Southwest Blvd., Grove City, OH
4740 Cemetery Road, Hilliard, OH
17 Cherri Park Square, Westerville, OH