Las Vegas Sun

October 24, 2014

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State Government:

Wait times climb at the DMV; Northern Nevada, you’re next

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Steve Marcus

People wait in line Thursday at the DMV office in Henderson. Wait times are up in the Las Vegas area and about the same up north, but that is likely about to change.


Las Vegas area DMV locations

Enlargeable graphic

Few issues bring out the anger of Nevadans like a long wait at the DMV.

For Southern Nevadans that irritation has been compounded by the knowledge that wait times here are as much as three times as long, on average, as in the rest of the state.

That won’t be remedied any time soon because lawmakers were unable to fully fund a plan to bring more equity to the system because of the state’s austere fiscal situation. North Las Vegas will not get a new DMV office, as officials had hoped.

But if misery loves company, Las Vegans can find some solace — things might get a bit worse for Northern Nevadans. The Department of Motor Vehicles closed “express” offices — which offered some but not all DMV services — in Reno and Sparks last week. A full-service DMV office in Gardnerville, about 16 miles from Carson City, also closed because of budget cuts.

All told, the cuts will save about $1 million over the biennium.

Entering the legislative session, the department had plans to close one Northern Nevada express office and open offices in North Las Vegas and Fernley (up north). But the combined cost of those offices was $1 million a year, according to DMV spokesman Tom Jacobs.

In May, the latest period for which numbers are available, wait times at Southern Nevada DMV offices continued to climb compared with May 2008.

Wait times at the two Northern Nevada offices that keep track — in Reno and Carson City — remained largely unchanged. At the Galetti office in Reno, the wait time increased by four minutes, to 28 minutes. At Carson City, the wait time remained flat at 18 minutes.

The DMV does not track wait times at the 10 other offices in the rest of the state.

The Las Vegas Valley last saw an increase in the number of DMV offices in 1998, when the Henderson office opened. (A North Las Vegas office was replaced by the new facility on Decatur at the Las Vegas Beltway in 2006.)

Southern Nevada legislators regretted that they couldn’t open another office, but said it came down to dealing with a sagging state budget.

“We need money to open up new facilities,” said Assemblyman Kelvin Atkinson, D-North Las Vegas, chairman of the Transportation Committee.

Sen. Mike Schneider, D-Las Vegas, head of the Senate committee over transportation, said the disparity between north and south needs to be addressed. “We need more locations here in Southern Nevada, but when your revenue is whacked 45 percent, it makes it pretty tough,” he said.

The DMV’s budget is limited to 22 percent of the state’s highway fund, which comes mainly from the gasoline tax. (The state’s vehicle registration fees go to the general fund.) Legislation to increase the gas tax to increase funding for highways and the DMV died.

Wait times could grow July 1, when furloughs for state workers begin. Most state employees, including DMV workers, will be forced to take one day off a month without pay.

Any complaints about the likelihood of longer lines irks the head of the state workers union.

“If you want smaller government, you’re going to have to take a half-day off of work to register your car,” said Dennis Mallory, head of the state chapter of the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees. “You can’t cut government, advocate for lower taxes and expect to walk in and out of the DMV in half an hour. You can’t have your cake and eat it too.”

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