Glen Burnie is kinder, gentler office of MVA Improvement: The Motor Vehicle Administration in Glen Burnie, known as the DMV of Doom for its long lines and grouchy faces, is changing its ways.

January 07, 1998|By Dawn Fallik | Dawn Fallik,SPECIAL TO THE SUN

The state Motor Vehicle Administration office in Glen Burnie used to drive customers nuts with long lines, bad directions and grouchy faces on either side of the counters.

But the atmosphere during recent visits has seemed almost jovial. Could the DMV of Doom have changed its ways?

"It's really a lot better than it used to be," said Tony Gaegler, 32, of Catonsville. He and his two children, ages 6 and 4, had been waiting about 30 minutes to get tags and title for his new car.

"The last time I was here, it was just horrible," he said. "You had to go upstairs, you didn't know where to go, no one seemed to know where to go. This time, it seems a lot more organized. It's not that bad."

Officials credit satellite MVA Express offices, customer service training and mail-in registration service, all phased in during the past few years, with an improvement that is decidedly not imaginary.

"I don't think the Glen Burnie office has any worse a reputation than any other MVA in the other 49 states," said James P. Lang, public information officer for the MVA office. "But I have to say that the things that go on here are the stuff on which sitcoms are based."

Sheer workload has long been part of the problem. About 5,000 people go to the Glen Burnie office every day, he said.

Driver's license renewal is the most requested service at the MVA, Lang said, with registration renewal and tags and title change next.

Lang said the MVA wants to give people options so that they won't have to go to a main building like Glen Burnie or Frederick. The agency is putting together a telephone-registration process and encourages people to use new self-service Access booths in 10 malls and grocery stores throughout Maryland.

The Glen Burnie building was renovated about eight years ago, putting most of the services on one floor.

All those customers now walk into the building to find an information center where they can ask for forms and directions. Previously, customers had to guess and get to the front of lines before receiving forms and advice.

Horror stories still exist. Delores Caberera had been waiting almost six hours for her friend, Barbara Chase, to clear up an insurance problem so she could get tags for her car. It was the second day Chase had spent at the MVA trying to correct the error.

"First they couldn't find her records," Caberera said, watching her friend get sent to another line. "Then they said she owed hundreds of dollars. Then it was 72 cents. We've been sent from one room to another and back again. I can't believe this insanity."

Several customers said they received wrong information at the information desk.

"I came to get historic plates for my car and they sent me here," said Mick Sheahan of Dundalk. "Then I found out I needed a different application. Then I was in the wrong place. It's great that they have this information place but they need to give out the right information."

Jannice High has worked at the MVA for 13 years and has heard such stories. A supervisor in the title division, she said she first came to Glen Burnie when she took her driver's test, 17 years ago.

"I remember it was a hot July day, and I had been practicing my parallel parking with my uncle," she said. "I was ready to go home but he said, 'No, you're going to take your driving test right now.' It took half the day."

High says service has become much faster, and with a computer keeping track of how many people are waiting in what line for which service, employees are very much aware of their performance. Offices also compare performances.

On Dec. 29, the wait at the Gaithersburg office for a driver's license renewal was two hours, compared with 26 minutes at Glen Burnie.

"The thing that people want is more Saturday service," High said, adding that Glen Burnie is open Saturdays from 8: 30 a.m. to noon for driver services. "But I think the MVA has really gotten on the right track to make it easier for customers."

Even with added offices, extended hours and mail-in services, dealing with automobile papers will never be a fun ride, said customers and employees.

"You know what you're getting into when you come here," said state police Sgt. 1st Class Walter Sargent, who has visited motor vehicle offices in Colorado and North Carolina. "You have something wrong. You go to the DMV. You stand in line. They fix it. It's the same all over."

Pub Date: 1/07/98

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