Government & Politics

At JoCo driver’s license offices, waits persist and tempers flare. Help may be coming

Two months after the Kansas Revenue Department promised better customer service at the driver’s license offices in Johnson County, long wait times and other problems persist.

The Star spoke to several people Tuesday who had waited for hours to get served at the driver’s license office in Mission, 6507 Johnson Drive. Several people said they had also tried the Olathe office, 13507 S. Mur-Len Road, but were turned away before noon because it was also overcrowded.

“I’ve been here for two hours and there’s a 3 1/2 hour wait,” said Eva McCoy, of Shawnee, who was at the Mission office over the noon hour. “It takes a lot out of your day. You better just plan the whole day if you’re going to do anything with your driver’s license here.”

This was a frequent refrain over the summer, when long lines, prolonged wait times and outraged motorists prompted the Revenue Department to open a third Johnson County office, at Rosana Square in Overland Park. The driver’s license offices also started opening on Mondays, instead of just serving people Tuesdays through Saturday mornings.

The Monday hours stopped after Labor Day. But a Revenue Department official announced Tuesday that a new schedule starts Oct. 15. At that time, the driver’s license bureau hours will be 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. Mondays through Fridays. That will apply to all offices statewide except for a few in western and southeast Kansas.

Revenue Department spokeswoman Rachel Whitten said Tuesday that the department has been working hard on hiring and training more employees and other making improvements to alleviate customer service complaints, but people will have to be patient a little while longer.

“We absolutely see the need for additional services for people of the Kansas City metro area,” Whitten said. “It’s been a process to get to this point. We understand there’s been a lot of frustration along the way....We’re working to speed it as quickly as we can.”

Whitten offered some advice for people heading to the driver’s license bureau: Tuesdays are the busiest days, while Wednesdays and Thursdays are often the best time to go.

In addition, a third office at Rosana Square, 7600 W. 119th St., Suite A, is already partially open and serving customers. It usually has the shortest lines. It can’t yet provide licenses for people needing a driving test, but can serve people needing only a renewal or the written test.

Whitten said the Rosana Square office will become a full-service driver’s license bureau sometime next month, although she did not know the exact date.

Kim Tucker was at the Mission office Tuesday but was discouraged by the long wait time. She said she was going to try the Rosana Square location another day.

“I think it’s ridiculous,” she said of the current situation. “If we all ran our businesses like this, we wouldn’t have any customers.”

In July, when the chorus of complaints reached a crescendo, Revenue officials said the summer months, when teenagers are out of school, are always the peak season. So they expected crowds would ease once fall returned. But The Star has continued to hear from upset readers, so a reporter and photographer visited the Mission office around lunchtime on Sept. 25.

The line there wasn’t nearly as bad as it was in mid-July, but several customers said there still weren’t enough employees to handle the load. At one point there were only three agents for 14 booths.

Richard Olson, who lives near the Mission office, said he first showed up at 8 a.m. to get a new Real ID driver’s license and was told it would be several hours. He kept checking back in and was able to run errands while waiting his turn. Finally he was served shortly before noon.

Olson said the staff was friendly, helpful and courteous. “The workers in there, they’re not the problem,” he said.

But he noted there aren’t enough workers. He was doubly frustrated that half the staff went to lunch at the same time, further reducing the number of people manning the counters.

Olson said the state used to have a better appointments and wait management system, but now it doesn’t work very well.

Indeed, the Revenue department acknowledges on its website that the wait line management system poses challenges. People who check in online are warned, “You must check into the office when you arrive to officially be in line. Because of this, if the office reaches capacity before you arrive and are checked in, you may not be served that day.”

Whitten said the state is getting ready to issue a request for proposals for a new wait line management system. It is in the review process and will be posted soon, but she did not know when a new vendor might be selected.