How Murphy and the legislature hope to cut down long MVC lines
Gov. Phil Murphy signed legislation Thursday intended to help lessen ongoing long waits at Motor Vehicle Commission offices.
Agency offices continue to see long waits for service — sometimes with people lined up outside for hours — as it makes its way through a backlog of customer needs that build up during coronavirus pandemic shutdowns.
One bill will allow the agency to designate special hours at branch offices for customers at least 65 years old and for those with medical conditions. It also increases the time that a photo can be used for renewal of a driver's license or identification card from the current eight years to 12, reducing the need for in-person renewals.
“Seniors are at a higher risk of experiencing complications from COVID-19. As a result, many are exercising an abundance of caution when it comes to going out in public,” co-sponsor Assemblywoman Vainieri Huttle said in a statement. “Allowing seniors to use stored photos to update their licenses will reduce the amount of trips they need to make to the MVC, and designating specific ‘senior hours’ at agencies will limit their exposure to the public during the pandemic.”
Murphy signed a separate bill that doubles the amount of time new residents with out-of-state licenses and registrations have before they need to get those documents from New Jersey — from 60 to 120 days.
“It has been two months since the MVC offices reopened and they are still struggling to overcome the backlog that accumulated during their closure,” co-sponsor Senator Shirley Turner said in a statement. “This extension will provide greater leeway for new residents of the state, allowing them to avoid the long lines and postpone registering their vehicle and obtaining a New Jersey license.”
Both bills take effect immediately and are in effect for the duration of the coronavirus public health emergency.
The lines have become a daily occurrence since the MVC offices reopened in July, with customers at some points camping out all night to ensure a place in line to conduct their business.
MVC Commissioner Sue Fulton told New Jersey 101.5 that the backlog of teens looking to take a road test to get their first drivers license had been cleared. During his coronavirus briefing on Aug. 31, Murphy said the MVC had processed 1 million different transactions, either online or in person,since branches reopened.
Fulton also said Friday during Gov. Phil Murphy's thrice-weekly coronavirus press conference that camping out overnight and standing in line all day is unnecessary. She said those who arrive by 8 a.m. to an MVC office will be given a ticket and be notified when to come in to be served.
She said in most, but not all cases, those arriving that early will be served the same day. She advised avoiding Saturdays and monitoring capacity online.
She also said long lines outside aren't necessarily a sign of unreasonably long waits or "dysfunction inside," noting that social distancing requirements allow fewer people indoors at once.
"We know that a lot of these places are overcrowded," she said, adding that in particular many north Jersey offices are "swamped." But she also said the MVC will continue trying to improve.