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Eagle editorial: Failure to deliver at DMV

  • Published Sunday, June 16, 2013, at 12 a.m.

CLARIFICATION: This editorial quotes Jeannine Koranda, spokeswoman for the Kansas Department of Revenue, as saying that “the system is running within normal parameters, and any issues we’re seeing now are localized. You aren’t seeing the lines we had this time last year.” That quote was referring only to the title and registration computer system, not the driver's license computer system, which has yet to be updated.

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Renewing a driver’s license shouldn’t take multiple attempts and a wait of three, four or five hours. That it does for many people in the Wichita area these days is a failure to deliver one of the most basic of government services.

And the time- and productivity-wasting lines don’t bode well for “Phase Two” implementation of the state’s new $40 million motor-vehicle computer system, to incorporate driver’s licensing.

Continuing to withhold $2 million of the state’s $25 million contract with 3M because of the computer woes is a good step, to hold 3M accountable, but there has to be more the state can do.

The delays aren’t getting the media attention that accompanied Phase One of the Division of Vehicles’ computer system upgrade, which has been in the works since 2006. Last summer people newly encountered daylong waits for tags and titles in several populous counties. Lines for driver’s licenses seemed long then, too – something the state blamed on the antiquated computer system.

A year later, with Phase Two still pending, “the system is running within normal parameters, and any issues we’re seeing now are localized,” Jeannine Koranda, spokeswoman for the Kansas Department of Revenue, told the Topeka Capital-Journal. “You aren’t seeing the lines we had this time last year.”

That may be true in Topeka, where waits ranged from 12 to 44 minutes Friday at the driver’s license office.

But at various times Friday at the Wichita and Andover offices, people were looking at three- to five-hour waits. Trying to use the QLess line management system that day – a great idea intended to allow people to reserve a spot in line via cellphone or computer – often meant being told it was unavailable. And on a recent visit to the Andover office, an estimated 90-minute wait stretched to three hours as computers repeatedly went down.

As one Wichita reader recently commented to Opinion Line, “Waiting six hours (after the text message told me my wait would be two hours) to spend three minutes at the counter was ridiculous.”

During a May legislative hearing, Kevin Cronister, chief information officer for the Department of Revenue, assured wary lawmakers that the department had worked with 3M to resolve nearly all problems, that Phase One was running smoothly, and that “stress testing” would prevent trouble in Phase Two.

But getting a driver’s license is a stress test itself at the two offices expected to serve Sedgwick County, home to half a million people. Whether the problem stems from lousy software, inadequate resources or incompetent management, it needs to be fixed.

For the editorial board, Rhonda Holman

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