Galveston County DPS problems

Rachel Ariss, left, arrives at the end of the line at the Department of Public Safety in Texas City on Wednesday, Jan. 9, 2019. Ariss came to the Texas City office from Clear Lake to get her daughter her permit. The Clear Lake office near their house was booked with appointments.

There’s clear logic in a Texas Sunset Advisory Commission recommendation to move responsibility for issuing driver licenses and state identification cards from the Department of Public Safety to the Department of Motor Vehicles.

It’s equally clear, however, that neither department will be able to provide good service to the driving public unless the Texas Legislature is willing to invest in the facilities, technology and people required to do that.

Also clear is that the level of service people are getting from their government in this case has fallen below what they should reasonably expect and deserve to receive.

At issue, as the newspaper reported Friday, is that service has gotten to be so slow, and the lines so long at DPS license offices in the Houston metro area, that people are willing, compelled perhaps, to drive a long way on the off chance of having to spend a little less of their lives standing in line.

Apparently, word got out that Galveston’s small office was the place to go if you didn’t want to wait for a very long time. The editors got interested in this odd issue when a friend called one day to say he was headed down from the Spring Branch area of west Houston to the Galveston driver license office. That’s a trip of about 70 miles one way.

Meanwhile, officials at the Galveston Island Humane Society complained the spillover crowd from the driver license office next door was filling up the parking lot at their shelter. They worried people wanting to adopt dogs and cats might be turned away, which is a reasonable concern.

The humane society has tried to be neighborly, not wanting to compound people’s misery by having their cars towed away while they waited in line. They have gone above and beyond with that, and should now just call the tow trucks. The DPS could attempt being neighborly too and perhaps warn people not use the lot next door or even station a trooper there to ensure they don’t.

A broader solution might very well be to relieve the DPS of this burden. The state requires a whole lot of this department. It’s responsible for about 40 broad tasks, including patrolling the highways, fighting organized crime, cyber-crime and terrorism, inspecting commercial vehicles, operating forensic laboratories and managing a vast repository of criminal records, according to its Legislative Appropriation Requests.

Administrators in those requests have informed lawmakers the resources they have dedicated to issuing driver licenses are not adequate to keep up with increasing demand, driven in part by the simple fact the state’s population is growing by about 2 percent a year.

And lawmakers have increased some funding and dedicated some to improving the driver license system. The Sunset Commission noted in its report that the department had diverted some of the improvement money to its law enforcement operations.

It’s not hard to understand those decisions. Do you worry most about how quickly your investigators are able to respond to tips about terrorism, how quickly crime scene evidence moves through your labs or how long a person might have to stand in line every few years to get a picture taken?

The Department of Motor Vehicles wouldn’t have those same naturally lopsided priorities, but it would need adequate funding or it also would fail, obviously.

Less obvious is where to focus those dollars. The DPS had hoped technology would help it keep ahead of demand growth and even planned to shut down facilities and move more of its business to the internet. The Sunset Commission determined that strategy had failed because the DPS internet option is not user-friendly.

No matter who ends up with the responsibility, the legislature should put money into improving the online option, because Texas, like everywhere else, is full of people who’d be perfectly happy never setting foot in a state office ever again.

• Michael A. Smith

Michael A. Smith: 409-683-5206;


(24) comments

David Hardee

Thank you Mr. Smith. It is exciting that your editorial brings to the attention of the public one of the state department’s that has failed to perform adequate public service. On several occasions in your paper I wrote about the inadequacies and ineptness of state and local bureaucracies. Certainly additional personnel and facilities would relieve the congestion at locations where public services are rendered. That is the traditional approach which always results in additional expense and taxpayer burden.
It is my contention that there are a far less expensive and much more effective solutions to these problems. Also I’m convinced there are significant expense reductions that can be achieved with modifications to the methods and workflow currently in place. For instance one of my articles pointed out how the current acquisitions of the vehicle license could be simplified and made less burdensome on the public. I also wrote an article on how the collapse of LaMarque independent school district and the subsequent transfer of the LaMarque tax to the Texas City independent school district caused additional burden on property tax payers because the Texas City district would not allow Galveston County tax assessor collector to process the billing and collect the funds.
Every time a public service flounders enough to cause of its deficiencies the cry goes out for more funding, more personnel and additional facilities. This is the “a public servant” culture resulting from lobbyists, ombudsmen, politicians and community organizers. That culture results in squandering taxpayer money without any repercussions. Consider how many times the parking meters downtown and the trolley system and floundered. Look around at all of the city owned properties and buildings are vacant, unutilized by been transferred to an un-taxable community service organization.
Where is the solution? Well, the first step is a one Michael Smith has taken with his editorial that exposes “them” in the media. Without the fourth estate performing its duty to police, report and continuously pursue public officials nothing will improve.
Keep up the good work!

Robert Braeking

Here's a thought. Go to a DPS office that is not so crowded.

Randy Chapman

Do you know of one not so crowded?

Don Schlessinger

Randy, I renewed my license in Harlingen last month, in 0810 out 0820. Very efficient.

Robert Braeking

Randy, use your google. Less than 1 hour away from Galveston are several.

Mindy Comstock

I have been to 6 of them. Spring, Galveston, Housin several.

You should not have to drive a hour from where you live to take care of license issues.

Mindy Comstock

They ate all crowded now and the ones that take appointments mysteriously don't take appointments.

George Croix

How will one take the DPS drivers license eye exam on the internet, to verify need for or continued use of corrective lenses is required?
What mechanism would there be on the internet to indicate that the person online is still in the same physical condition sufficient to safely operate a motor vehicle as the last time they applied or renewed?
Provide an attached document from a doctor about either of the above? They should sell like hotcakes on ebay.......
We're not talking about renewing a Master card, or buying on Amazon. We're talking operating a ton or two or more of steel at high speed in close proximity to others....the honor system is just not gonna cut it.......
No doubt SOME functions can be more modernized, but the pitifully small level of actual safety considerations and enforcement of regulations and laws in existence now for driving should not be lessened.....

John E Sr. Macrini

Ending the multi-lingual lingual format would increase efficiency and hinder the following:

Randy Chapman

DPS needs to either up their game, or as suggested transfer driver licenses to the DMV. This has been an issue for far too long.

Robert Braeking

Here's another thought. Don't get any tickets and you can do it online.

Steve Fouga

Eventually you have to go in for the eye test and photo, tickets or not.

Randy Chapman

Not if you have a CDL.

Robert Braeking

I have a class A CDL, Hazmat, Double-Triple, Tank, Public passenger. Bi-annual physical covers eye test. File picture is used on replacement license. I've only had to go to the DL office once in the past 12 years and that was only because I let my physical lapse.

Randy Chapman

Sorry Robert, but you are mistaken, at least in Texas. I've had the same for almost 40 years. Below is from the Texas DMV site.

Unfortunately, unlike with a regular driver's license, you can't renew your CDL by mail, e-mail, phone, or any other method. Nor can you renew it while you are living outside of Texas. These tighter restrictions for CDLs are largely because of new national security regulations mandated by the Transportation Security Administration (TSA).

Mindy Comstock

I haven't gotten tickets. Simply trying to get two learners permits for two teenagers. You can't do that on-line.

David Hardee

The well meaning efforts to identify specific problems and a to make suggestions for solutions in this comments area is merely speculation. The approach of preforming a comprehensive evaluation requires using the analytical tools. I.e. work flow diagram that will illustrate the current methods, personnel activities and pin point the bottle necks. It will also identify those activities requiring actions requiring face to face interviews and confrontation requiring a certified person to give evaluation on competency, physical impairments etc.
Some simply things like using the internet or calling in to request an appoint scheduled by date and time would reduce the large lines and wait times. The software package can manage the # of appointments so the department personnel/resource are not over schedule and the applicants appear on a controlled basis. these are tools used by the private sector to allocate and manage time, events and resources. A time and motion study (tool) gives guidance for the critical path that will produce the most effective operation.

Ma Gill

Advance appointments won't help unless there are more employees. They can only process a certain number of people per day - whether or not they have appointments. More employees and more technology are needed.

As a teacher, I am extremely concerned that the current system causes many high school students to miss a half-day (or more!) when obtaining licenses.

Mindy Comstock

Have tried to get appointments. If you have one after school but they have reached capacity for that day, your appointment is not honored and you are turned away.

Most of the time I try to make an appointment and they say they are not taking them for that day.

Or they are somehow all full
even at 8:30 in the morning.

Brian Tamney

Make an appointment at houston passport office, then let me know how well govt appointments work.

Don Schlessinger

Been there, done that! Got the T-shirt.

Raymond Lewis

Good article Michael and hopefully someone will listen. Found myself in that mess in Galveston this past Monday (7 Feb). Not for me but with a son who needed to replace a lost licence. Don't say it can be done on line because the online system simply does not work. We were, however, able to print the necessary form on line and have it completed before we got to the facility. Arrived , 11:10am. Departed, 2:20 PM. Two workers behind the counter handling all request. Once he got to the counter in took only about 20 minutes to complete his transactions. Getting to the counter was the issue. Totally inefficient operation with too few people attempting to handle too many request. Not sure how the long lines outside will be handled during in-climate weather.

Brian Tamney

I just renewed mine online with no trouble at all. Wasn't even trying to went to renew truck registration. She the link and thought oh yeah that expired soon. Got license and truck done in 10 minutes.

Kelly Naschke

How about privatizing the Drivers License offices, initiating competition and profit motive and watch the lines disappear.

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