Licensing department reduces wait times statewide

Expanded online, mail-in options credited

By Patty Hastings, Columbian breaking news reporter

Published:

 
photoClick to enlarge
photoClick to enlarge

Disgruntled DOL customers rejoice: Vancouver driver licensing offices are experiencing some of the lowest wait times in years. The Washington Department of Licensing attributes statewide wait time reductions to expanded online and mail-in options, and to moving driver testing to qualified driver training schools.

The average wait time in the first half of January for the Vancouver North office on Northeast 117th Avenue was six minutes, while the Vancouver East location on Northeast 136th Avenue averaged eight minutes.

Last year, the DOL added the option to pre-apply online for a driver's license and introduced an application called License Express that allows drivers to take care of the most common transactions for all of their vehicles and licenses in one spot.

In 2012, nearly one-quarter of the agency's 3.4 million driver transactions were done by mail or online, according to a news release from the DOL. Over the last five years, that percentage has grown from 5 percent to 23 percent.

However, local service innovations came with a caveat. Vancouver licensing office customers experienced longer than average wait times this summer while employees were learning to use upgraded counter equipment. In July, the average wait time spiked to 79 minutes at Vancouver East and 73 minutes at Vancouver North; that's more than five times the average of the previous summer.

Christine Anthony, spokeswoman for the Washington Department of Licensing, said licensing offices typically experience higher traffic in summer months. The DOL also added new requirements for commercial drivers, leading the agency to serve more of them in the summer.

Patty Hastings: 360-735-4513; http://www.twitter.com/col_cops;patty.hastings@columbian.com.