Fed-up Californians deserve to know why DMV lines are so long

Eight hours – that’s how long some people are waiting in DMV lines. And while most of us are used to the slow service and miscommunication at the Department of Motor Vehicles, things have been getting much worse recently.

Customers are rightfully fed-up, and deserve answers. The DMV must be held accountable. To start that process, we are calling on the Legislature to audit the agency.


The main reason for the increased wait times is the federal REAL ID Act, which establishes minimum security standards for government-issued IDs. Starting Oct. 1, 2020, Californians without a REAL ID will be unable to board a domestic flight or enter federal buildings and military bases.

As more people visit DMV offices to get these new IDs, wait times have skyrocketed to renew a driver’s license, pay vehicle registration fees or transfer vehicle ownership. Even customers who made an appointment online are stuck in line for most of the day. It’s more than an inconvenience for Californians living paycheck to paycheck who have been forced to take an entire day off work.

The paperwork required to get the new ID has caused confusion among customers, and the DMV has failed to clarify the requirements. Even more frustrating than waiting in line is waiting then being told that you have the wrong paperwork. On top of that, the DMV is posting misleading wait times on its website; customers have reported waits twice as long as what the DMV claims.

There is no excuse for this poor service. Since the REAL ID Act passed in 2005, the DMV has had plenty time to prepare, and the Legislature provided $70 million to deal with the increased demand.

Californians deserve to know what the DMV did to prepare for the new ID, why it’s fudging wait times and how it plans to improve its customer service. It’s important that we keep all branches of government accountable, especially when taxpayer time and money are at stake. That’s why we are submitting a formal request to Assemblyman Al Muratsuchi, chairman of the Joint Legislative Audit Committee, which meets Wednesday, to approve an audit of the DMV.

The larger our government grows, the tougher it is to hold agencies accountable. But as legislators, it’s our job to keep state agencies honest, cut red tape and make it easier for Californians to access essential services. If we are pouring millions of taxpayer dollars into a system, we need to make sure those funds are put to work.

Phillip Chen, R-Brea, represents the 55th state Assembly District and can be contacted at Matthew Harper, R-Huntington Beach, represents the 74th state Assembly District and can be contacted at