Delays at Idaho Division of Motor Vehicles offices are creating headaches for vehicle owners — and the employees trying to help them.
The Idaho Transportation Department rolled out a new system for the DMV, called the GEM System, in October. The system ties people’s licenses to their vehicle registrations, which is supposed to expedite future needs.
Officials say it is much-needed upgrade to the previous system, four decades old. But the transition has created long lines as employees struggle to work around a system that Ada County Assessor Bob McQuade, whose office is in charge of the county’s DMV offices, says was rolled out too early.
“This was rolled out in the beta testing stage of development, and it really had not been adequately tested,” McQuade told the Statesman by phone Tuesday. If ITD had taken more time to test it before rolling it out across the state, he said, fewer problems would be plaguing employees trying to navigate it.
A Canyon County spokesman confirmed that four of the 20 county’s DMV employees working for the county had left since the new system had rolled out Oct. 13, as first reported by the Idaho Press. Officials from the Canyon County Assessor’s office did not respond to a Statesman request to confirm if the departures were a result of the new system.
McQuade confirmed that one employee has left since Ada County rolled out the program, but said he wasn’t sure if the changes led that employee to quit.
The DMV in Idaho offers vehicle titles and registration, plate renewal, disability placards and a few other services.
DMVs are separate from driver’s license offices. A county assessor — McQuade in Ada County, Brian Stender in CanyonCounty — is in charge of the DMVs, while the sheriff’s office oversees the driver’s license offices.
Canyon County has a single DMV office at 6107 Graye Lane in Caldwell. In Ada County, there are five:
- 8655 W. Franklin Road, Boise
- 190 E. Front St., Boise
- 1769 N. Lakes Ave., Meridian
- 9115 Chinden Blvd., Garden City
- 10769 W. State St., Star
Both counties have a single driver’s license office. Ada County’s is at 400 N. Benjamin Lane, while Canyon County’s is at the same location as the DMV.
McQuade said that on the old system, the average wait time for someone at the DMV was about seven minutes. After the rollout, that wait time has gone up to at least 30 minutes — once you get inside the door.
Social distancing requirements mean that only a few people are allowed in DMV offices at a time. Others must wait outside, sometimes for more than two hours, McQuade said. In both Ada and Canyon counties, the line has to be cut off at a specific point in the afternoon to make sure everyone can be helped before closing.
Lines aren’t always long, but they can be frustrating to those who are looking to get in and get out quickly, especially as it gets colder.
“If you’ve got to wait 15 minutes and it’s 20 degrees outside, that’s a lot different than a 30-minute wait time when it’s 65 degrees,” McQuade said.
TD is now working to reduce wait times across the state, according to a news release. The department is extending the deadline for any vehicle registrations or driver’s licenses set to expire from between September and December of this year to Jan. 31, 2021.
“We apologize for any longer than normal wait times at your county DMV office,” Alberto Gonzalez, DMV administrator for ITD, said in the release. “Upgrading from a 40-year-old computer system is a big project, and merging millions of records is a challenging process. The GEM system is not yet perfect, as we continue to clean years of data, but it is improving every day.”
HOW TO AVOID LONG IDAHO DMV LINES
McQuade offered three tips to avoid long lines:
▪ Make appointments online. People with appointments can skip the outdoors lines at DMV locations and spend only a short amount of time inside.
Appointments for Ada County can be made up to a month in advance at dmvscheduling.adacounty.id.gov/naoa/index.jsp, which is also where people can make appointments for the driver’s license office.
Canyon County does not accept appointments.
▪ Take advantage of the extension to Jan. 31 if possible. People who are buying new cars or transferring titles may not be able to wait.
▪ Skip going to the DMV at all. Instead, visit adacounty.id.gov/assessor/motor-vehicles/ to renew your vehicle registration online.