a pleasant day at the florida dmv

This is a post I meant to write two weeks ago when it occurred on 4 January. Better late than never, I suppose.

My wife and I use an on-line website and mail to renew our vehicle tags. Normally there’s not a problem, but this year, for whatever reason, my wife didn’t get hers while I did. And because we’re on different months, and I’ve been very busy, her renewal just slipped past me. I was reminded of her expired tag the last day of December as I was washing her car. I just happened to look down and read her now expired sticker on the tag.

I tried to get online and order a new one, but due to it being New Years Eve, nothing was working correctly. That meant a personal trip the following Monday, 4 January, to a local Florida DMV office to wait forever to get a tag. What a great way to start the new year…

When I got to the DMV bright and early I noticed it was the same crowded place in the same strip mall I’d not seen for over a decade. It still had a lot of people waiting, and lots of windows with state employees, and it still had the number system with a machine voice calling out numbers. With one notable exception.

The machine voice was calling out phone numbers. The system has evolved now to allow you to input your mobile number so that the queuing system can send you your wait status, and use both your number and a text to call you up. The screen capture above shows the last few minutes of my wait, with the ability to query the system and get a response back. The system was very fast; it took no more than 10 seconds to respond, and most of the time it was faster than that.

As far as the overall wait for a new tag was concerned it was the shortest on record. I was in and out within an hour and back home in plenty of time to put the new sticker on my wife’s tag. I attribute the shortened wait to this new system.

I don’t know who came up with the idea, but this method of using texting to handle tag waits at the DMV is very smart. The DMV took advantage of the fact that most, if not all, of the customers now have a smart phone that can text. Thus, no special app was written. It doesn’t matter what brand of smart phone (or even dumb/feature phone) you have, if it can send and receive texts then it can participate. And the system still allows you to take a paper ticket if you can’t, or won’t, use your cell phone (I have unlimited text, but for folks who don’t they can still use a paper ticket).

Texting wait status has one other interesting benefit; you don’t have to wait there. You can come in, get into the queue, and then leave to run another errand. You’ll note that the system allows you to move back into the queue (the ‘M – need More time’ entry) without getting kicked out completely. This makes the system truly helpful, not just merely convenient.

I must give kudos to the Florida DMV for a really smart use of ubiquitous technology that benefits everyone.