By Earl Glynn | Kansas Watchdog MISSION — County Treasurer Thomas Franzen said Thursday problems with the Johnson County waiting line software were a separate technology problem from recent software capacity problems in processing car tag license renewals and title transfers.
Franzen cautioned not to confuse the capacity problems of the new Kansas Department of Motor Vehicles system with problems in the Johnson County system used to manage waiting lines.
JoCo waiting line system
Franzen said Johnson County has used queuing software to manage waiting lines for the last few years and is the only county in the state with such a system. The system sends text messages with estimated wait times.
According to Franzen the queuing system uses an algorithm based on historical data to predict wait times but historical data now are not helpful to predict processing times with the new Department of Revenue motor vehicle system.
Franzen said new processing time data are needed to improve estimates, but until the capacity issues are resolved with the new state motor vehicle software, collecting meaningful processing data may not be possible. “All our [processing] data is irrelevant at this point.”
“The benefit right now is the system gets you a place in line.” Franzen said anyone in line prior to either the title or renewal queues “closing” or being unable to accept additional customers would be taken care of that day.
“If you miss your time we will take care of you that day if you are in the office before the doors lock at 4:30 PM and have a place in line.” According to Franzen those who miss their time are given priority processing once staff confirms a person was in line earlier.
For now Franzen said the time estimate is a guide that says “you’re a little ways out or you’re a long ways off” in the waiting line. The “getting close” text message is to inform someone when to come back to the DMV office.
Franzen said changes are made on a daily basis to try to make the system more accurate but a time estimate is not a guarantee.
Statistics collected by the system provide a way for tuning and future improvements.
Renewal customers need not go to DMV office
Franzen emphasized waiting lines could be avoided entirely by renewal customers. Franzen said renewal customers should not be going to the DMV offices, but should be using the mail service or the state’s online renewal service.
[Note: I saw the text messages shown in this section as I waited in line for a car tag renewal myself on Thursday.]
Get in virtual line from home or office
Get in the waiting line by going online, through an 888 number, or by using kiosks at the motor vehicle offices.
On the web start at http://treasurer.jocogov.org and look for “Get in Line at DMV”.
The process of getting in line takes three easy steps:
Now wait for text messages …
Text messages show virtual waiting line estimates
The initial wait time estimate for a tag renewal was encouraging, especially when compared to the ~300 minute wait estimate for title changes.
About an hour later, the estimate looked better, …
County Treasurer Franzen said a message like this means it’s time to go to the motor vehicle office to complete the process. Franzen thinks over time the queuing system will make better wait time estimates.
Franzen admitted staffing levels over lunch are a challenge for the prediction algorithm.
Besides the text messages, one’s place in line can be viewed on computer monitors at the motor vehicle office.
The left part of the screen above shows 125 people in line for car title changes. The estimated wait time when the picture was taken was 5 hours, 45 minutes.
The right part of the screen shows 52 people in line for car tag renewal or other matters. At the time this picture was taken the estimated wait was 1 hour, 46 minutes.
After two hours of waiting:
I needed about 3 minutes to pay the taxes for a vehicle and get the “May” renewal sticker.
How accurate were the estimated wait times in text messages today?
Treasurer Franzen thinks the accuracy of estimated wait times will improve once other problems with the new state system are resolved.
State motor vehicle system may still have capacity problems
Franzen said the new state DMV system is very complex and processes data in real time instead of nightly batch processing.
Franzen thinks the state has stabilized the system but he is waiting for some additional enhancements to improve processing capacity.
“I’m pretty confident” we have a capacity problem, “but I can’t quantify it” yet. Franzen guesses there still may be a processing capacity gap but he wants to see the actual statistics once the new system is running smoothly.
According to Franzen his office is still working through some staffing vacancies that have exacerbated the problem, but additional staff may be needed at some point. Franzen said he has not been authorized to hire additional staff at this point.
“This is the beginning of the fifth week with the new [state] system and we’re still learning a lot about it, the state is learning a lot about it, and we’re working together to address the issues.”
- Kansas extends car tag deadlines after more computer problems, Kansas Reporter, May 22, 2012.
- Dept. of Revenue coordinates grace periods with Kansas Law Enforcement for Expired Vehicle Tags and 30-Day Permits, Johnson County Treasurer Press Release, May 22, 2012.
- Customer backlog affects Johnson County Motor Vehicle Offices, Johnson County Treasurer Press Release, May 22, 2012.
Contact: Earl F Glynn, firstname.lastname@example.org, KansasWatchdog.org
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