RICHMOND, Va. (WRIC)-Long lines returned to the Virginia Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV) on Tuesday as all 75 customer service centers welcomed back walk-ins for the first time since COVID-19 prompted temporary office closures last year.
For the foreseeable future, the DMV will be operating on an alternating daily schedule. Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays will continue to be designated for appointments only whereas Tuesdays, Thursdays and Saturdays will be exclusively for walk-ins.
Customers at the Richmond’s DMV office off of West Broad Street around lunchtime reported waiting between two and four hours for service. Lines built up outside as a way to control crowds indoors.
Various coronavirus precautions are still in place. Chairs in the waiting room remain socially distant. Masks are strongly recommended but not required. Staff and customers are separated by plexiglass.
The return of walk in services comes in response to a General Assembly mandate. Some lawmakers were frustrated by long wait-times under the appointment-only system, calling it one of the most common concerns among their constituents.
Several customers in Richmond echoed that sentiment on Tuesday.
“I’m just fine with them taking precautions and doing walk-ins instead of me having to wait 90 days,” said Faye Miles.
“It definitely was still more convenient for me to be able to come and wait in the line as opposed to waiting until December,” said LaChe’rel Richardson.
“I think they should add more days to the walk in service,” said Perry Anderson.
In defense of the hybrid schedule, the DMV has cited a survey showing 77 percent of polled customers wanted appointments to continue, in part because they are more predictable and efficient.
“I’ll probably make an appointment next time,” said William Browel, who waited up to four hours for assistance on Tuesday.
Appointments can still be hard to come by in some cases though.
For example, as of Tuesday afternoon at the Richmond Central office, there were no available slots posted online for drivers license services through the end of 2021. Appointments are posted 90 days at a time.
The DMV is urging customers to cancel appointments they cannot make it to as no-shows are continuing to clog the system. The agency is also emphasizing its expanded online services as a solution.
“With more than 50 services available online and others by mail, many customers are taking advantage of the opportunity to conduct business without having to come to the DMV,” said DMV Commissioner Richard D. Holcomb in a statement. “But when an in-person visit is needed, customers can now plan ahead for a convenient appointment or walk in on alternating days, allowing Virginians to choose the way they prefer to be served.”
Customers needing a title after purchasing a vehicle from an individual (not a dealer) may also drop off their applications and supporting documents. Staff will process the work and contact customers to pick up the title within five days.
As of Tuesday afternoon, the DMV hadn’t completely finished updating its website to reflect the new alternating system. The website was still prompting customers for search for appointments on every day of the week, rather than on the three designated days.
“You can’t schedule an appointment in that category (Tuesday/Thursday) and they are working to remove it,” said DMV Public Relations Manager Brandy Brubaker in an email.