Friday, March 11, 2011

HCCA Testimony - Oversight of Department of Motor Vehicles


RE: Public Testimony for Oversight of the Department of Motor Vehicles
Thursday March 10, 2011

We would like to thank Councilmember Wells and the honorable members of the Committee on Public Works and Transportation for the opportunity to submit testimony on the oversight of the Department of Motor Vehicles.

The Department of the Motor Vehicles service center located at the Penn-Branch Shopping Center is located in the Penn-Branch community, which borders our community. Our testimony will outline challenges with that location and specific recommendations to improve service and alleviate impacts to our community.

o Long Wait Times Outside: The Penn-Branch service center has inadequate capacity for existing service levels. The service location can only hold about 50 customers inside. When the inside capacity is reached, a line is formed outside on the sidewalk. Residents have reported waiting in the outside lines for as long as three hours. Seniors and disabled residents are exempt from standing in the line. However, all other customers are subject to the weather conditions.

o Limited Public Transportation Access: Only two bus lines (M6, 36) service the shopping center, which leads most people to drive or take a cab to this location. Even people within walking distance choose to drive to this location given the steep topography. Since most people drive, the lower parking lot (which is sizable) fills up. Motorist either park at the upper parking lot (which is small) or on neighborhood streets. Parking in the upper parking lot prevents people visiting the retail stores from being able to park.

o Limited Traffic Circulation: Despite limited parking, travel by car has other challenges. Most people visiting this service center arrive via Eastbound Pennsylvania Ave SE. Motorist cannot make a left turn at Branch Ave SE, so they enter through the shopping center entrance on Pennsylvania Ave. If Westbound Pennsylvania Ave SE traffic is heavy, cars turning left into the shopping center can back up traffic all the way to Branch Ave SE. Some motorist who are aware of the no left turn on Pennsylvania Ave SE to Branch Ave SE, use neighborhood streets to access the entrances on Branch Ave SE.

o Inefficient Customer Service: There is a perception by some residents that the customer service could be more efficient. One thing that is frustrating is waiting in line for hours to be told that you are missing information or you need to go to a different service location. There is a receptionist inside who checks to make sure you have adequate documentation. However, by the time you arrive at the receptionist desk, you have already been in line for hours. In addition, residents stated employees are seen standing around having non-work conversations instead of assisting customers.

o Increase capacity at the Penn-Branch Service location to address current service levels
It is our understanding there are plans to expand the DMV as part of a lease renewal with the shopping center. We do not know the status of the lease. If the expansion does occur, we believe the additional capacity should only address existing service levels. The expansion should not serve additional demand.

o Alleviate the Demand at Penn-Branch
It is our understanding that the other locations do not have as long wait times as the Penn-Branch location. While we have not independently verified if this is the case, we recommend increasing the capacity and/or encourage residents to use the other service locations to alleviate some of the demand at Penn-Branch service center.

o Consideration of Relocating the Service Center to a Transit-Oriented Development East of the River
While we appreciate having a DMV service center is close proximity to our neighborhood, we wonder if there are other locations East of the River that may be more suitable. We recommend the City investigate if there is a location East of the River (now or in future developments) that is accessible to more public transportation options (i.e. more bus lines and/or metrorail station) and still has adequate parking available for people who choose to drive.

o Improve Customer Service Efficiency
We would recommend a dedicated staff person to check the documentation of the people standing in line outside. Therefore, people who do not have adequate documentation or need to go to a different service center can step out of line. This will make the line move faster for people who do have proper documentation.

We thank you for your time. We are available for any follow-up questions.

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