Mayor Anthony A. Williams toured the District of Columbia’s only vehicle inspection facility yesterday and joined Department of Motor Vehicle officials in announcing that new employees and extended hours beginning next week will reduce waiting.
Lines at the Southwest facility formed around the block yesterday just before the mayor’s arrival, and many folks waited more than an hour to have their vehicles inspected.
The mayor walked the lines with DMV Director Sheryl Hobbs Newman and inspection manager Fred Loney, shaking hands with customers and explaining that help is on the way.
“You know I get a lot of complaints about long lines on e-mail,” Mr. Williams said.
“Sheryl and Fred have heard these complaints. We are currently training 23 new employees.”
Sixteen new employees will start work Monday at the Half Street SW inspection station and another seven workers will join the force by midmonth, Mr. Williams said.
The DMV has come under harsh criticism for closing the West Virginia Avenue NE inspection station last spring a decision made in 1996 just as the renovated facility on Half Street SW reopened with expanded service bays. Mrs. Hobbs Newman said the new Southwest facility has the same capacity as both of the previous inspection stations had.
Mr. Williams released scorecards last month for his top administrators with the main charge for Mrs. Hobbs Newman being to shorten the average wait time for inspection to 30 minutes by December.
“No one should have to wait more than 30 minutes to get into an inspection bay,” Mrs. Hobbs Newman said. “In the coming weeks you will see changes in DMV stay tuned.”
The station will extend its hours of operation starting next week from 6 a.m. to 8 p.m. Monday through Friday, and Saturdays from 7 a.m. to 3 p.m. Beginning May 30 the station will stay open until 10 p.m. on weekdays.
“After 4 [p.m.] there are no cars on the street. At 6, there’s nobody here,” Mrs. Hobbs Newman said, advising drivers to spread out the times when they visit the station.
Employees who walk the lines outside the station also will allow people whose wait will be more than 45 minutes to make an appointment during non-peak times, Mrs. Hobbs Newman said.
“It’s been about an hour, wasn’t it, since you walked across the street,” Hardy Hilliard, 71, who pulled his taxi into line around the corner from Half Street, asked a reporter.
The Capitol Cab Company driver was returning to have his cab reinspected after it failed the emission test.
“I think it’s bad they need to open another station,” Mr. Hilliard said.
DMV officials plan to renovate the Northeast station within 18 months with an additional lane. The Northeast station will be used solely for inspecting commercial vehicles, the city fleet and federal government vehicles.
Inspecting federal vehicles is a new responsibility for the DMV, according to Mrs. Hobbs Newman, who pointed out that the total number of cars has increased citywide. She said the federal government recently notified the DMV that it will be responsible for handling the inspection of 75,000 fleet vehicles.
“We have no choice, [but] it will not affect services to the citizens,” Mrs. Hobbs Newman said.
The Northeast inspection station also is designating two lanes for cabs and city vehicles. City law requires taxi drivers to have their vehicles inspected twice a year, and DMV officials said that more than 60 percent of them don’t pass inspection.
“We’re trying to bring the average time down,” Mr. Williams said. “[But] if everybody comes at the same time, there’s nothing you can do.”
Lisa Campbell from Northwest spent her day off Tuesday at midday waiting in a line that circled the block to get her 1993 two-door Saturn inspected.
“[Tuesday] it was terrible,” said Mrs. Campbell, who waited more than two hours but didn’t get an inspection. “I still hadn’t reached around here.”
She had to return yesterday and finally got into a bay after waiting for about 30 minutes.
“I couldn’t believe when I got here that there was no line,” she said. “I thought the place was closed.
“This place is very slow.”