Michael Bloomberg

Five Wasted Hours in Michael Bloomberg's DMV


I'm betting he didn't register that.

So my family and I just came back from a business trip to Brooklyn's Department of Motor Vehicles. Each of the three employees we dealt with were as pleasant and helpful as can be; there were no surprise setbacks along the way, we walked out of there with both of our goals accomplished (converting my D.C. license and registration into legitimate New Yorkese, for the low low price of $265), and the whole process took…five goddamned hours.

This, it turns out, is totally normal, based on the scientific evidence of my two colleagues who have also enjoyed the Brooklyn DMV. "I was there for 5 hours Friday just to change my license from Virginia one to New York," one wrote, prophetically, before I departed. "I once spent 7 hours at that same DMV getting my license switched over," another wrote at the halfway mark of my experience. "Godspeed."

The DMV-horror story is such a libertarian staple by now that it almost feels unfair. Here, let's take a walk through some past Reason headlines:

* "D.C.'s Deadly DMV"
* "Smiles Outlawed: DMV Makes Life Even More Miserable"
* "Hell Can't Be Worse Than the DMV"

And don't forget this Reason.tv classic:

You don't have to be a libertarian to shudder at DMV horror stories, because you have likely experienced them yourself (unless you are one of these apparently lucky people who also happen to like commenting at Bloggingheads.tv). The more salient question is, why do we put up with this? And why do politicians bore us with any of their other crap while a monopoly city service sputters on with all the efficiency (but 200 times the price!) of a Soviet Bloc post office? (A similar argument could be made about the grotesquely inefficient system for allocating jury duty, as Greg Beato wrote for us last year.)

Not exactly my version, but close

You used to see (or is it that I used to see?) a lot more concern on the liberal side of the aisle for reforming taxpayer-funded institutions that failed to deliver on their basic promises, and even some exploration of options (such as privatization) for getting government out of businesses it always seems to do poorly. I have on my desk the third edition (circa 1976) of Inside the System, a collection of Washington Monthly articles devoted mostly to figuring out why government doesn't work well. As Charles Peters (who founded the mag in 1969) and James Fallows wrote in the introduction,

The government's struggle to reform itself has been the continuing political story of the 1970's, but often the story has a familiar ending. No sooner has an agency been set up to save the environment, deliver the mails, cure the sick, or discover new sources of energy than it begins to behave like the many other government agencies, which were created years ago in similar bursts of enthusiasm but quickly crossed the threshhold into bureaucratic ossification.

Can you imagine sentiments like that emanating from the modern left? Instead, even when celebrated "wonks" like Peter Orszag suggest privatizing the Post Office once they're safely out of power, it comes with such comparative throat-clearing as "Those who believe in the usefulness of government must be vigilant about making sure all its activities are vital ones, since the unnecessary ones undermine public confidence."

Screw public confidence; let's start with not wasting everyone's time and money, just because you can't let go of services that AAA would perform 10 times better.


NEXT: Deputy Disciplined for K-9's Death From Being Left in Cruiser

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  1. All the intensives point to not moving to New York…and yet you chose to move to New York…..

    1. I was watching some TV show about house hunting or whatever, and there was this couple living in an apartment in Manhatten, that was so small that the only place they had to store pots for cooking in, was in the oven. And the rent was more than 2k per month. That is reason enough for me to never move there. Not to mention the nasty winters and even more nasty people.

      1. How very collectivist of you.

        1. I strive each day to be as collectivist as possible, Epi. I wouldn’t want dear leader disapointed with me or anything.

      2. Using the oven as storage is actually really common in NYC.

        1. I get really pissed off just because I sometimes feel I don’t have enough free counter space. Not having enough cabinet space would probably turn me into a crazed shooter, NYC not a good idea for me.

          1. NYC is not a good idea because of the people.

            Not that they are much different than people elsewhere, there’s just a whole fuck-ton of them, and that means the raw numbers of cock eaters will be high.

            And I just can’t deal with a high number of cock eaters.

    2. As long as nobody had a big soda or carried a gun, it all turned out well.

  2. The more salient question is, why do we put up with this?

    Pulbic Skool Teechir: “Ok, kids! Listen, it’s time to repeat this morning’s lesson! Ready?”
    Unfortunate kids: “Yes, Ms. Clementine!”
    Pulbic Skool Teechir: “Good! Now, let’s start!”
    Unfortunate kids: “Government is us! Us is the government!”
    “Government is us! Us is the government!”
    “Government is us! Us is the government!”
    “Government is us! Us is the government!”

    Yes, why do we put up with it? I wonder….

    1. You left out the mandatory poem praising dear leader.

      1. Barack Hussein Obama:

        He came, he saw, he conquered!

  3. Thank God I haven’t moved out of state. Do all my DMV stuff online.

  4. Instead, even when celebrated “wonks” like Peter Orszag suggest privatizing the Post Office once they’re safely out of power[…]

    Ha! As if he really means it.

  5. I haven’t been able to see any of the inline pics via reasonable, so this is just a test.

  6. Why did you go to the Coney Island DMV, Matt? That one is terrible. In my past experience the Manhattan ones are a little better.

    Best thing I ever did when I lived in NYC was get rid of my cars and rent when I felt like going outside the city.

    1. my aunt lives NYC, has her entire life and has never owned a car.

      granted, owning a car in manhattan… well…

      1. I can see it being problematical, since there are no gas stations(I think I saw one) and parking is, from what I have heard, extremely expensive. I have never even tried to drive there.

        1. There are gas stations. Most of them are all the way on either the east or west side. So, you wouldn’t just stumble across them while checking out the city. But having a car while living in Manhattan would be miserable, unless you had the money for a garage space (which is ridiculously expensive). I lived on the Upper East Side for several years and had a motorcycle, which I had no problems parking on the street. Granted, rents in Manhattan are ridiculous. Standard libertarian stuff about NYC politics…but I still like the place. I don’t think it’s just because I grew up in NY and most of my friends and family are there. Once I’m done with school in Philly in two years, I’ll probably move back up to NY, but I’ll never live in Manhattan again; I’d never be able to save any money.

          1. I’ll settle for taking the train up there( bout 4 hours I think), and spending the weekend, once or twice a year(always in summer).

  7. I can’t see any pics using reasonable.

    Videos are working fine, but pics are not.

    I’m on a Mac.

    1. I’m on a Mac

      Well, then you should just be banished from H and R, forever, and sent to the gulags.

      1. Seriously, what a maroon.

        1. Not sure who you are calling a maroon, me or MLG. But you know that isn’t nice don’t you? We are very PC here at Reason and are all about civility, I even have one of those choose civility bumper stickers on my green car. Also, don’t say bad words, Mmmkay?

      2. I could see pics until today (though I haven’t used my computer since Wednesday of last week, so I can’t identify exactly when it was that I could no longer see pics).

  8. Waiting at the DMV is one of the prices we pay for Civilization.
    I haven’t paid my “fair share” in quite a while because GA went to painless renewal by mail but thanks to the REAL ID Act “terrorists and illegal immigrants” I’m going to have to come up with a birth certificate and present it in person to renew.

    1. a birth certificate and present it in person

      Wait, what? Isn’t driving a *right*?

    2. Our local county clerk (Ulster County, NY) is running ads on the radio saying you should renew your registration at the local DMV office (or at the roving mobile DMV office) because it keeps tax money local. It’s really infuriating.

  9. The PA DMVs are mostly OK, probably because they don’t deal with vehicle registrations (done by private messenger services e.g. AAA). I was floored when I got in and out with my motorcycle permit in like 20 minutes.

    1. I should add that the last time I had to renew my driver’s license (Ulster County, NY), I went in to the DMV office to take the eye test rather than paying a doctor for it. I was in and out within 20 minutes: they’ve gotten rid of the omnibus line and replaced it with a deli-counter style ticket with different counters for different services.

      But then, this is a relatively low-population non-urban county.

  10. “You used to see (or is it that I used to see?) a lot more concern on the liberal side of the aisle for reforming taxpayer-funded institutions that failed to deliver on their basic promises”

    I don’t remember that at all. Progs have always been hit and run when it comes to policy; you don’t see them wanting to revisit and fix New Deal or Great Society era policies. Rather, they tend to prefer building up another government program to “fix” problems created by the last raft of social policies. That’s *not* the same thing as fixing the flawed program.

  11. I want to give a shout out to my own state. In Indiana, we don’t have emissions checks. We can renew our plates and driver’s licenses online. The only time I actually have to visit a branch is when I’m getting a car titled. I’m usually in and out within an hour.

    1. This is true.

      Just renewed my license online–they mailed me a new one (using the same pic) within a few days.

      Not bad for government work.

  12. Nice alt-text.

    I’m betting she holds more than 32 ounces.

  13. I’ve never had too much trouble at the DMV, but I’ve only ever gone to ones that were in towns of less than 35,000. I suspect that most of the trouble comes when you have a limited number of offices in large cities.

  14. The DMV may be a waste of time, but it only stands between me and some BS paperwork and taxes I have to pay. I shudder to think of the same system standing between me and the medical care that could save my life, or save the quality of it. My parents immigrated to the US from Europe, where that was the case (well, unless you paid the doctor — the SAME doctor — out of pocket, and let your tax dollars go to others at the same time, kind of like when you send your kids to private schools because the public schools you are forced to finance aren’t worth a damn).

  15. Clearly Matt hasn’t been reading HampersandR.

  16. DMV interesting…

    ILYA ILIN!!!

    the man! style, grace, confidence, panache, fiercesome power!!

    and a new WR …

    this is THE alpha male. screw the superheavies and i guarantee this total will blow away in sinclair formula if not in the # itself, the 105 total

    ot? sure

    but such a mind numbingly beautiful thing it must be celebrated




    1. English translation?

      1. it was simply an astounding world record clean and jerk (and world record total) by (imo) the greatest lifter of our generation

        ilin has it ALL.

        the guy is STILL undefeated in international competition!!!

  17. Did you waive as you passed Cherry Hill?

  18. When they privatized the DMV in Indiana, it made an amazing difference. It was a horror before. You would stand in line for hours behind a horde of Mexicans, who seemed to live there. After the privitazation, you would walk in and there would be at least 3 people waiting to take the next customer. I never had to wait. And this was after they eliminated a lot of existing branches. So you may have had to drive a little further, but you never had to wait. Here in Murland, it is back to the nightmare. I dread ever having to go there, but at least you can do most things online now.

  19. The general consensus here is going to be that, if you voluntarily move to NYC, you get what you deserve.

    1. you get what you deserve

      32 oz sodas not included.

    2. Goddamn right. Other than my obsession with NY pizza (which is annoyingly hard to find in the DC area), I can’t think of a single reason I need to ever go to NYC again.

      1. I actually enjoy visiting NYC and was just at the WTC memorial last month. But I always get in and get out, keeping my head down as much as possible.

        1. Same here

  20. NYC, eh? You going somewhere, Matt?

  21. I find SC laws regarding DL credentials kinda of annoying. But the longest wait I’ve ever had has been an hour or so.

    I was fucking amazed though at how easy it was to get a FL credential when I lived there for a couple years(10 years ago). Amazed in a good way. Maybe the one thing Fl had or has going for it(ease of transferring driving credentials). Moving back to SC it was like I had never ever been a resident of SC. They wanted birth certificate, ss card, etc, etc. Whereas, if I remember correctly, FL took my SC license and maybe one other form of id and gave me a FL license.

  22. Next time go out to Huntington. Never seen a line there.

  23. The DMV is one thing Virginia does right. Well, at least up here at my local branch. In the 12 years I’ve lived here, I’ve spent a total of about 2 hours at the DMV. Hour #1 was switching registration y license from dog-forsaken hellhole DC to VA. Hour 1 – 1.5 was this past December, getting my new car registered. Hour 1.5 – 2 was this past March, renewing my license (my first renewal was online, this one had to be in person so they could snap my pic). And I’m talking about a Saturday morning in each case.

  24. The DMV in midtown is much better. It “only” took me 1.5 hours to get a license. The best DMV I’ve ever dealt with was the MA BMV. You were in and out in under 20 minutes. IN was a close second. The worst DMV is the CT one. Good lord that was awful and you need about 7 pieces of ID to transfer a license from NY and it was a 5 hour process.

  25. Well, here in New Mexico you can either go to the government’s DVM office, or for a tiny little bit more money you can go to any of the competing private MVDs who are licensed by the state to to the business and who do it well, efficiently and I have never spent more than 20 minutes getting my business done.

    MVD Express is one of them: http://www.mvdexpress.com/

  26. from volokh.com…

    police firearms instructors and volokh.com bloggers fighting for 2nd amendment rights!

    David Kopel ? August 6, 2012 7:57 pm

    Earlier today, I filed an amicus brief in Woollard v. Gallagher, currently scheduled for an expedited hearing around October 23 before the Fourth Circuit. The case is an appeal from the decision of the federal district court that Maryland’s granting of handgun carry permits only to persons who can prove a specific, imminent threat is unconstitutional. The winning lawyer in the case below was Alan Gura, representing Raymond Woollard and the Second Amendment Foundation.

    The brief is filed on behalf of the two major professional associations of police firearms trainers: the International Law Enforcement Educators Trainers Association (ILEETA); and the International Association of Law Enforcement Firearms Instructors, Inc. (IALEFI). Also joining the brief are Professor Clayton Cramer, and the Independence Institute.

    Here’s the Summary of Argument:

    Strong protection of the constitutional right to the licensed carry of handguns for lawful self-defense does not interfere with police efficacy in cracking down on illegal gun carrying….

  27. Curious how the DMV is Bloomberg’s? I’m pretty sure that the Department of Motor Vehicles is State of New York and Bloomberg is Mayor of New York City, not Governor of the State Of New York? I understand hating over-reaching/inefficient/bureaucratic government and I certainly understand identifying Bloomberg as the power-mad-control-freak he undeniably is. But how do you disdain government so much that you cant’ tell city vs. state? Will there be an article about how Gov. Cuomo has screwed up NYC parking and outlawed Sodas of Un-Moderate Size?

  28. Wow, the *county I live in has all of one DMV office, serving 200,000 people, and I’ve never had to wait more than 2.5 hours on the rare occasions I actually have to physically go there.

  29. 15 minutes the last time I renewed my license.

  30. You moved to NYC?

    Points and laughs.

  31. Renewed my license in NJ earlier in the year. Didn’t take all that long, just shy of an hour. But, by design, I had to talk to seven…different…people.


  32. That actually makes a lot of sense dude.


  33. It’s hard to believe that any other DMV can take longer than California but this takes the cake. It’s not healthy to sit in the DMV that long.

  34. Thanks for sharing this. It sure can be painful sitting in the DMV. The driving lessons in Ridgewood are a lot more fun.

  35. The DMV in Florida has improved tremendously. They have an efficient system to get thousands of people through quickly. And believe it or not they are nice! My agent at Blue Sky Insurance agency in Boca Raton actually helped me with what I needed before i went in.

  36. The DMV in Florida has improved tremendously. They have an efficient system to get thousands of people through quickly. And believe it or not they are nice! My agent at Blue Sky Insurance agency in Boca Raton actually helped me with what I needed before i went in.

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