CARSON CITY — The worst places to be in Nevada aren’t so awful anymore.
Just ask the people who transacted business Tuesday at the Department of Motor Vehicles’ 2701 E. Sahara Ave. office in Las Vegas.
“I got through in about five minutes today,” said Lorell Guydon as he left the office. “It is very quick, even when a lot of people are seated in there.”
“I noticed it was very quick today,” said Cirilo Cabezas. “I was born and raised in Las Vegas. This one is the worst of all DMVs. There’s been times when I sat here for four hours.”
Of course, the DMV is gloating. The agency’s just released survey shows that its offices no longer are the worst places to be. In fact, many people like the DMV and only have praise for its counter workers.
That’s because the waits aren’t so terribly long anymore, most now in the 40-minute range.
A May 15-31 online survey of 3,000 people who visited the DMV found slightly more than 78 percent said they were extremely satisfied or moderately satisfied with their DMV experience. It also found 78 percent complimented DMV employees, with respondents saying the efforts to assist them exceeded their expectations.
“The public has noticed DMV’s renewed commitment to customer service,” agency Director Troy Dillard said. “The survey results tell us that customers are, by and large, having a positive experience.”
Since the DMV is the sole place that residents, rich or poor, cannot avoid, there has been an increased effort by governors and legislators in recent years to reduce waiting times.
In December 2011, the Legislature’s Interim Finance Committee approved hiring 20 additional counter employees when surveys showed average wait times in the Las Vegas offices exceeded 70 minutes. Today the average waits at the East Sahara office are less than 40 minutes although you might get lucky like Guydon and finish a lot sooner.
DMV spokesman David Fierro attributed the greater public approval of his agency not just to reduced wait times, but also to a concerted effort to treat people as valued customers.
“It may sound hokey, but we have gone through a cultural change to treat our customers better,” he said. “You see it in the retail world, but too often in government we lose track of the fact these people are our customers.”
On its website, dmvnv.com, the agency posts the current waiting time at all its major offices.
On Tuesday morning, the wait time at the Sahara office was just seven minutes, while the Henderson office wait was nine minutes. That is hardly time to fire up the Kindle and read more than a couple of pages.
The Decatur office wait time was 49 minutes and the Flamingo time was 45 minutes.
Pity the poor Reno residents. The wait time there Tuesday afternoon reached 159 minutes.
Other East Sahara visitors also complimented the DMV.
“I’ve never had a problem with this place (DMV on East Sahara),” said Annette Zinn after finishing business Tuesday. “The most I’ve ever waited was about 45 minutes.”
“Everything is a little bit faster now with the new kiosks it seems,” added Clifford Singleton, referring to kiosks set up around the state to handle the more routine DMV functions.
The survey also found that two-thirds of the respondents said their wait times were less than an hour. More than one-fourth said their wait was less than 30 minutes. About 60 percent of the respondents were from Southern Nevada.
Fierro noted that the DMV processes 7 million transaction a year, a number that continues to grow. In January, the agency will begin issuing driver authorization cards to people in the country illegally. Officials expect to issue 60,000 of these cards.
On Aug. 7, the DMV will hold a workshop to discuss potential regulations for these cards. Details will be announced.
To handle the additional work without increasing wait times, the DMV was authorized by the Legislature to hire 18 additional employees, most who will speak both English and Spanish.
The DMV keeps detailed records of average wait times each month all of its offices.
While a five-minute wait at the Sahara office doesn’t happen often, Fierro said the average wait time in June was 35 minutes, down from 38 minutes in June 2012. Decatur office waits in June also were 35 minutes, down from 39 minutes a year earlier.
Flamingo office waits were 45 minutes in June, down from 49 minutes a year earlier, while Henderson office waits averaged 43 minutes, down from 46 minutes.