DMV Takes Real ID Message Behind TSA Lines

On Wednesday, the state Department of Motor Vehicles took its informational messaging about Real ID, the federally mandated identification card, into a new area at Ontario International Airport. A pop-up field office elsewhere is another recent success.

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In a first, the California Department of Motor Vehicles is taking outreach efforts for its troubled Real ID rollout where no one from the agency has ever gone before.

DMV has had information tables for Real ID at airports in San Francisco, Los Angeles and Fresno to educate residents on changes and updates to the rollout of the federally mandated identification card — which is required by Oct. 1, 2020, for people who want to board airplanes without having to bring a passport. But on Wednesday at Ontario International Airport, the state agency had an information booth “inside,” past the Travel Security Administration checkpoint, for the first time ever. Among the takeaways:

• Officials believe the new location will be strategic. The Ontario International booth is information only, like its predecessors elsewhere. You can’t actually apply for a Real ID there. But the two-person booth — live at the Ontario airport on Wednesdays and Fridays through August — may connect with travelers on a deeper level once they’ve made it through TSA.

“Then, that pressure has gone down, because everybody just wants to get through to the other side. We want to go to the people who are going to be impacted by this federal requirement and provide them with the information that we think they want,” said DMV spokesman Jaime Garza.

• Proof of residency remains a key hurdle for Real ID. The federal Department of Homeland Security notified Gov. Gavin Newsom on April 8 that Californians applying for Real ID would need to provide additional proof of residency. Garza said DMV and DHS had originally agreed that it would require one proof of residency upon application, and that the completed Real ID — mailed to the resident, and presumed received because it was not returned — would represent the second proof. “They’re the ones who changed their minds,” Garza told Techwire.

DMV began accepting two proofs of residency up front in January from residents who could provide them; and since April 29, it has required two proofs of residency upon application for Real ID. Starting Monday, it began mailing out roughly 3.6 million letters to residents who already have Real ID but provided only one proof of residency, asking them to indicate their address is correct on a form; and mail it back postage-paid, to establish that second proof of residency. However, those existing Real IDs already in the hands of residents will remain valid until their expiration dates.

• A pop-up DMV field office pilot in April was a success. The one-day initiative, targeting employees at a Health Net office in Rancho Cordova, generated Real ID applications and served 78 people. Its large size made it an attractive location; given the response, others are likely.

“We wanted to see if it was workable, if it was viable, and we do plan to replicate this effort,” Garza said.

• Taking the Real ID message to the airwaves may have paid off. DMV spokespeople responded to callers’ questions from 4 p.m. to 7 p.m. on May 16 during the news on Sacramento's KCRA (Channel 3). Officials answered nearly 1,000 calls on 14 telephones during the three-hour event. The effort is believed to have reached 80,000 households, according to KCRA and Estrella TV; and approximately 1 million people, according to TVeyes data, Garza said.

• DMV is pushing out Real ID information through other channels too. The agency tweeted about Real ID on Tuesday; has discussed the topic through its speakers bureau, which sends out speakers to groups of 40 or more; and is educating older drivers on the ID card through its senior driver ombudsman program, which interacts with the elderly. The department has more than 160 DMV Now digital kiosks, capable of handling basic transactions, scattered around the state; and nearly all California airports now offer Real ID information via digital and physical signage.

Theo Douglas is Assistant Managing Editor of Techwire.