It's an issue almost as old as the automobile---long waits at driver’s license offices. Despite modern technology and hundreds of millions spent by lawmakers in recent years, the problem persists across Texas. Drivers still regularly report spending several hours on average when going to a DPS office to acquire or renew a driver’s license. The latest effort to tackle the issue is $212 million in new funding approved by this year's Legislature that will allow DPS to hire 762 new employees. DPS says the vast majority of offices around the state will get increased staffing, with mega centers and "severely crowded" offices to be fully staffed for the first time.
The problem of chronic wait times at driver’s license offices has proved vexing for state officials and lawmakers for years. "It's a disgusting situation, when you have a state like Texas with so much resources---over a $200 billion budget---and we've still got people waiting in line for three or four hours," says state Sen. John Whitmire (D-Houston), who chairs the Senate Finance Committee.
Whitmire tells KTRH that lack of funding is not the problem. "We actually budgeted over $200 million for new offices, and they've got some offices that are opened now that just aren't staffed properly," he says. "(DPS) needs a new brain trust."
Whitmire is not the first lawmaker to criticize and question DPS leadership in handling drivers licensing. In fact, lawmakers have approved a feasibility study on moving driver’s license operations from DPS to the Department of Motor Vehicles, as most other states do. "(DPS) is great at law enforcement, and this more of a red tape and administrative job, so I'm open to shifting it to the (DMV)," says Whitmire. "But today it's the DPS in charge, and that's who I want held accountable."
In addition to staffing up its offices, DPS is also planning on opening two new offices next year, and starting a pilot program to extend hours to 9 p.m. at some offices to see if that helps alleviate wait times. "We've spent several hundred million dollars, with which (DPS) claims in two, three, four years they'll have it straightened out," says Whitmire. "But that's a darn long time for the public to wait."