Changes coming to Johnson County driver’s license offices after public uproar

Long lines frustrate drivers at the Mission driver’s license office

Tempers have flared this summer over long lines at the two state-run drivers license offices in Johnson County. State officials say they are working on solutions.
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Tempers have flared this summer over long lines at the two state-run drivers license offices in Johnson County. State officials say they are working on solutions.

One day after people at a Mission driver’s license office complained vociferously about long lines and wait times, the Kansas Department of Revenue announced new hours and other improvements in response to the public outcry.

The Star and other media outlets reported Tuesday on Johnson County residents who were outraged about having to make multiple trips and wait hours to get served this summer at the two state-run driver’s license offices in the county, in Mission and Olathe.

Kansas Department of Revenue spokeswoman Rachel Whitten said Tuesday that the department had been working for weeks on improvements, including new Monday hours in Olathe.

On Wednesday, Revenue Department Secretary Sam Williams sent a statement to The Star outlining additional improvements and changes designed to alleviate the frustration and outrage over large crowds and poor customer service.

“It might be a stereotype about the DMV, but it’s unacceptable,” Williams wrote. “My team and I accept full responsibility and are going to fix it.”

Both the Mission office, 6507 Johnson Drive, and the Olathe office, 13507 S. Mur-Len Road, will now be open from 7 a.m. to 4:45 p.m. on Mondays, in addition to Tuesdays through Fridays. Hours will be 7:30 a.m. to 11:15 a.m. Saturdays, through Aug. 20.

After Labor Day, all offices statewide will be open Monday through Friday. Whitten said many people in the past have shown up at the offices on Mondays, not realizing that they weren’t open, so this addresses that problem. Saturday hours after Aug. 20 are still under discussion.

The department also is working on establishing a third permanent Johnson County driver’s license location, Whitten said, and hopes to announce that address soon.

Whitten said the summer season always is the busiest, because teenagers and students are getting licenses while school is out. But this summer has been especially challenging because people are trying to get a Real ID, which requires more documentation and takes longer to process.

Some people told The Star on Tuesday that Kansas in the past has had a good online check-in system, with text alerts, so people knew when to show up at the driver’s license offices and be served.

Whitten acknowledged that the former check-in and text alert system is no longer available. She said a new wait management system was selected in February 2017, but the person who made that decision is no longer with the agency. No one currently with the agency knows why that change was made.

“The leadership of the division of vehicles doesn’t know why this new system was chosen,” Whitten said. “There’s not any memory of why that decision was made.”

She said the department is working with the current vendor, ACF Technologies of Colorado, to try to improve the wait management system.

Williams pledged to work towards a better system.

“We are working with the online check-in vendor to improve that tool,” he wrote in his statement. “If that does not happen, we are going to move to a different system. Our goal is to professionalize the services so that drivers can make appointments and not worry about getting in line.”

The department also is urging people to familiarize themselves with the Real ID documentation requirements before they visit the offices, so they don’t have to make multiple trips. Some people have complained that the documentation seems arbitrary and confusing, but Whitten said it is federally-mandated. That information is at https://www.ksrevenue.org/dovrealid.html.

Passengers will need to have a Real ID to board a commercial aircraft starting in 2020. So Department of Revenue officials urged people to wait until this fall to get those licenses, when the offices typically aren’t so busy.

One other solution for people frustrated by long lines in Johnson County is to visit the state-run driver’s license offices in nearby counties, such as Wyandotte and Leavenworth counties. The list of locations across the state is at https://www.ksrevenue.org/dovstations.html.