So far this year, the average wait time for North Texas drivers hoping to renew their licenses at DPS offices is 1 hour and 16 minutes, the state says.
That’s a far cry from the arduous visits in the summer heat that some fed-up motorists described last week at “mega centers” run by the Texas Department of Public Safety.
But what appears indisputable is that the waits are getting worse, despite an increase in manpower and funding from the Legislature.
Average year-to-date wait times for DPS Region 1, which includes Dallas-Fort Worth, are worse compared with numbers provided for fiscal year 2018 (57 minutes) and fiscal year 2017 (45 minutes).
This year’s average includes waits as long as 3 hours and 59 minutes at the Carrollton Mega Center, and as short as 15 minutes in Paris, according to data from DPS. The Denton DPS office shows an average 66-minute wait time this year compared with 39 minutes in 2017.
Average wait times, however, reflect only the wait from the time a customer checks in at a kiosk to the time they are called to the service counter, according to DPS.
At the McKinney DPS center last week, several people in line told KXAS-TV (NBC5) that they waited over five hours to get inside the office. Allen resident Al Smith told the station that customers waiting outside saw a 16-year-old girl pass out from the triple-digit heat and hit her head on the concrete.
DPS did not confirm to NBC5 that the girl collapsed from the heat.
Last week, Flower Mound Republican state Sen. Jane Nelson wrote to Col. Steven McCraw, executive director of DPS, to ask when Texas residents could expect to see better customer service at DPS centers.
In her letter, Nelson cited $212.4 million in new financing for DPS that is intended to fill 762 vacancies, bringing the program’s funding to an all-time high of $490.6 million. That new funding includes $8 million for a new DPS office in Denton.
In a statement to The Dallas Morning News, DPS said, “We are grateful to state leaders for providing DPS with additional funding during the recent legislative session. This funding will be used to help address the growing demand on the driver license program as the state’s population continues to rapidly expand.”
DPS noted, however, that the funding will not be available to DPS until Sept. 1. Before that funding kicks in, DPS said it has begun an “aggressive hiring plan” to have employees in place and ready to begin working for the agency as soon as funds are available.
Employees must be trained first for eight weeks, so ideally they will begin working by November or December, according to DPS.
“These wait times are too long and do not even account for time people spend outside waiting to get into the building,” Nelson told The News on Friday. “The Carrollton center needs reinforcements right away, and I still want to see an action plan from DPS that will solve this problem.”
DPS has been given $1 million to conduct a study to prove it deserves to keep operating the license centers. If the agency fails to prove this to the 2021 Legislature, the Texas Department of Motor Vehicles will take over the operations.
For those hoping to avoid a long wait at a DPS center, the agency cautioned that summer is the busiest time of the year, and that Mondays and Fridays are the busiest days of the week.
The agency also encouraged customers to renew online whenever possible, and that they take advantage of the “Get in Line Online” option, which allows customers to check in online before going to a center.