IE11 Not Supported

For optimal browsing, we recommend Chrome, Firefox or Safari browsers.

Credit Cards, Website Updates, Pop-Up Field Office Coming to DMV

Many details are still being finalized, but the California Department of Motor Vehicles is planning some changes aimed at improving service and reducing wait times ahead of the 2020 Real ID federal deadline.

The Department of Motor Vehicles will pilot a pop-up location next month aimed at reducing office visits ahead of the 2020 Real ID deadline, and the agency expects to begin taking credit cards at field offices later this year, Government Operations Agency Secretary Marybel Batjer said Thursday.

Techwire Takeaways

• Officials will pilot a pop-up field office in April in hopes of identifying a new way to reduce office traffic ahead of Real ID.

• DMV offices should be able to accept credit cards this year.

• Updates to DMV’s website are in process, also aimed at improving customer contact.

Batjer, whom Newsom appointed Jan. 9 to lead a DMV Strike Team in an overhaul of the crucial but challenged state department, sent a memo to Gov. Gavin Newsom’s office via Cabinet Secretary Ana Matosantos, outlining a litany of updates and process improvements that are underway or planned this year. DMV has faced considerable criticism after the state’s Motor Voter program, launched in 2018 to automatically register eligible visitors to vote unless they opted out, improperly registered thousands of Californians.

Lynda Gledhill, GovOps deputy secretary for communications, said this is the Strike Team’s first formal memo to the governor’s office — though she noted in an email that Batjer had covered some of the same ground in testimony to the Legislature on March 12.

“I wouldn’t say it would probably be the only one," Gledhill told Techwire, referring to the memo. "Obviously, the Strike Team’s work will continue until July. This was just a chance to put it down on paper and memorialize what we’ve done so far.” Among the takeaways:

• The Strike Team is working with the DMV to “bring the field office to the customer,” and partnering with “a major California company” to pilot a pop-up office in April. Its location hasn't been announced. The goal is streamlining the application process for federally mandated Real ID cards ahead of the Oct. 1, 2020, deadline to avoid a rise in wait times. Batjer called the issue DMV’s “most immediate challenge” and said Real ID issuance more than tripled year-to-year, from 13.6 percent of overall driver’s license volume in January 2018 to 43.1 percent in January 2019.

“Improvements made to simplify and speed Real ID issuance will help create the conditions for broader cultural change within the department that will transfer to many other processes within DMV well beyond Real ID,” Batjer said in the memo. Her comment was reminiscent of remarks about the need for cultural change at DMV made Tuesday by Richard Gillihan, chief operating officer at the state Department of Finance, before Budget Subcommittee No. 4 on State Administration.

Gledhill said the pilot will happen in the latter part of April, and said the state is not yet ready to disclose the name of the company with which it’s partnering.

• Credit cards are coming, though it’s not clear when exactly in 2019 field offices will begin to accept them. But the issue has been “a high priority,” Batjer said. The Strike Team has assessed challenges including security and privacy issues; and it and DMV have interviewed vendors who could offer “part or all of an end-to-end solution for installing credit card services” in field offices. The project partners released an Invitation to Negotiate earlier this month, seeking bidders on the project.

• DMV is also in talks to pilot an information center at Sacramento International Airport and possibly expand the concept elsewhere in the state. The Strike Team is also standing up an outreach campaign to promote Real ID and point out ways to handle DMV transactions without an office visit. The Team and DMV are partnering on a demonstration project that would let customers upload and store documents required to obtain a Real ID, ahead of an office visit — with the goal of confirming that required documentation is present and speeding up the process.

• The Strike Team is starting to work on a series of short-term improvements to the DMV website, to smooth out transactions and ensure that vital information is more easily located. The goal, Batjer said, is handling more interactions online and reducing field office traffic. The team will also look at a “full-scale” website overhaul.

• The Strike Team is working with the DMV to add 100 new self-service terminals, or kiosks, by summer; and another 100 by year’s end, though locations aren’t yet certain. The terminals, which now number just 70 at field offices and 82 at retail and other locations, handle tasks like registration card issuance and renewal, and plate stickers. DMV added four additional services at the kiosks in December, and the Strike Team would like to add still more, Batjer said.

“For example, the ability of kiosks to issue a replacement driver’s license would save thousands of field office visits a year, as 1 million Californians lose their licenses annually,” she said in the memo.

• It’s confirmed: The Strike Team “worked with the governor’s office to launch a search for a permanent director of the DMV this week,” Batjer said — putting an official stamp on a state of California LinkedIn post, and a tweet from Newsom’s office on the topic, both on Monday.

“These roles are essential to the cultural transformation required to create a customer-centered organization,” she said.

Theo Douglas is Assistant Managing Editor of Industry Insider — California.