The Virginia Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV) is now open to walk-in service three days a week, 16 months after first opening for appointment-only service following COVID-19 closures in spring 2020. Monday, Wednesday, and Friday remain appointment-only, but the DMV now provides walk-in-only service Tuesday, Thursday, and for half days on Saturdays. Senator Chap Petersen (D-Fairfax) has been pushing for the DMV to reopen to walk-in service, but he isn’t satisfied with the DMV’s hybrid approach.

“I saw that they’re reopening for in-person again, three days a week, which, to me, I personally don’t understand that. I mean, we’ve required all our schools to be open five days a week for in-person instruction,” he told The Virginia Star. “I know that the DMV commissioner said that the reservation system is popular, but I don’t understand why you still can’t have a reservation system and allow walk-ins on the same day. I don’t understand why those are mutually exclusive, so I’m still a little bit puzzled by all this.”

“I mean, every pizza store in America seems to have figured this out,” he said.

During the August General Assembly special session, Petersen introduced an amendment to the American Rescue Plan Act allocation bill requiring the DMV to open for in-person same-day service.

“In March 2020, the DMV closed all its service centers, really across the state,” Petersen said on the Senate floor. “They slowly came back on line during the summer and fall of 2020, but there was no walk-in service. You had to call and make an appointment. I’m sure like my office, your office has gotten a lot of calls from people trying to get appointments with DMV. Maybe it’s a teenager trying to get a license, maybe it’s someone trying to get a renewal of a license, or an eye test, or maybe it’s a driver privilege card such as the legislation that my seatmate carried a couple years ago which has yet to be fully implemented.”

Petersen noted that schools were about to go back to in-person, full time classes. “And yet what I hear from the Department of Motor Vehicles is they can’t have people in their service centers because it’s a public safety issue,” he said.

In its Monday press release, the DMV said, “At the direction of the General Assembly, DMV is integrating walk-in service back into its operations in addition to appointments. Based on research, surveys, experience, and the ongoing pandemic, DMV developed a hybrid service model to offer options and flexibility.”

Appointment service is overwhelmingly popular among customers who have completed transactions in person; 77 percent of survey respondents indicated they would like to see DMV continue appointment service. We will continuously monitor the effectiveness of the hybrid service model,” DMV Public Relations Manager Brandy Brubaker told The Star.

Petersen said the DMV situation is part of a broader reluctance in Virginia’s state agencies to return to normal operations.

“The larger issue is just requiring state employees to return to work, which is now, you know, 18 months old as an issue,” he said, noting that teachers have been back for six months, and courthouses have been open for a year.

“There’s just a sort of resistance to having people come back to work, and at some point, we have an executive branch, and the executive branch has got to execute,” he said.

Petersen said he didn’t think there was more the legislature could do.

He said, “We’ve got an election coming up. I feel like at this point I’ve done what I can do, and it is what it is, and obviously we’re going to have a new governor, and it’s going to be their issue come January.”

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Eric Burk is a reporter at The Virginia Star and The Star News Network. Email tips to eburk@vastarnews.com.
Photo “At the DMV” by Micah Sittig CC 2.0.