MVA to stop renewing tags at counters to cut wait times

Agency will direct customers to self-serve kiosks, other options

December 30, 2010|By Michael Dresser, The Baltimore Sun

Maryland motorists seeking to renew their expiring tags will have five options for doing so next year — but standing in line at Motor Vehicle Administration office counters won't be one of them.

Starting Monday, the MVA plans to direct customers who want routine renewals of tags expiring in February and subsequent months to automated kiosks or to one of four other choices that don't involve a queue. One aim of the decision is to cut waiting times for customers who do need to interact with a clerk.

MVA spokesman Buel Young said the agency already provides 70 percent of its "clean" renewals through sources other than office counters. The change is a move to nudge the other 30 percent in a more efficient direction.

"We're always trying to cut down our wait times," Young said. "You really and truly do not need to come in here, so it is a public service by all means."

Vehicle owners will not be short of other options. They can go to an MVA office and use one of the kiosks that dispense the super-sticky tags that must be affixed to license plates every other year. Or they can renew the tags online at mva.maryland.gov.

Owners can also go to a private tag and title service or renew by mail when they receive their notices. Or they can renew over the phone by calling 888-834-7344.

Young said vehicle owners who go to MVA offices Monday or later for a late renewal of their January tags — perhaps thrown off by the closing of state offices on the last two weekdays of 2010 — will be served at the windows because they weren't notified of the change by mail. But he said people whose renewal is due in February have been informed and will not be served at the counters.

According to the MVA, taking the tag renewals away from the counters will improve efficiency and make better use of a work force that hasn't been growing in recent years. The agency said workers who regularly handle walk-in renewals would be reassigned to other duties.

Young said that renewals that had been "flagged" because of an insurance problem or other issues would continue to be processed at the counters.

The spokesman said that for now, the kiosks will be in MVA offices only, but he added that the agency will look into expanding them to other locations such as courthouses and other government buildings. He said the possible locations would be limited by the need for security because the newer kiosks — unlike earlier versions placed in malls — have to store the stickers and blank registration documents.

Also, he said, the machines have to be regularly maintained — requiring that they be placed in easily reachable locations.

According to the MVA, the agency has come a long way since the days when all tags expired during March — spawning long lines and hours-long waits that month. In 1986, the state moved to a system of staggered expirations, where the "tag rush" was spread through all 12 months.

The MVA said that in 1998, it became the first motor vehicle agency in the country to offer registration renewal through the Internet and self-service kiosks.

michael.dresser@baltsun.com

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