Commissioner: Wait times at New Orleans OMV "embarrassing" - FOX 8 WVUE New Orleans News, Weather, Sports

Commissioner: Wait times at New Orleans OMV "embarrassing"

© Davion Lewis © Davion Lewis

New Orleans, La. - The average August day at the New Orleans Office of Motor Vehicles means watching the hour hand slowly crawl forward.

On August 2, 2013, FOX 8 News watched as scores of people waited and hoped the next flashing red number on the wall would match their ticket, before the office shut down for the day and everyone was sent home - no matter what time they got in.

"We've been in here for an hour and a half, and they have called two numbers, and I still have 10 people in front of me," said customer Davion Lewis.

Many people bailed and hoped another day would mean better luck.

"We came yesterday afternoon, and it was like 2 o'clock and they said they had 40 people ahead of us," said Joseph Muse, III.

Muse was one of more than 30 people lined up at 6:45 a.m., more than an hour before the OMV opened on Friday, August 9. They were all choosing to wait outside the locked doors.

Chad Caldwell was the second in line. He was prepared for the wait with a lawn chair, and had arrived at 6:25 a.m. that morning.

"Otherwise if you come in the middle of the day you're going to be waiting for four hours or three hours," said Caldwell. "So it's easier just to get here really early and not have to wait during the day."

"We're experiencing embarrassingly long wait times for customers," said Louisiana Office of Motor Vehicles Commissioner Stephen Campbell.

Embarrassing, but not as bad as most people think - that, according to Campbell.

FOX 8 obtained wait time records from August 1 to August 21 of 2013. The data shows the average customer waited 1.5 hours at the Veteran Boulevard location during that time.

Campbell says that average wait time is unacceptable.

"We don't want to have people wait any longer than a half hour, 45 minutes. That's sort of a goal. It's difficult to put a goal out there and not have the resources to accomplish it," said Campbell.

According to a legislative audit released in March, the Office of Motor Vehicles has reduced the number of full-time employees by 29 percent over the past decade.

Public-private partnerships with other companies have grown, and the state allows the businesses to perform basic OMV type transactions for a fee of up to $18. It's supposed to ease OMV foot traffic.

In 2012, the audit says, the businesses handled more than 909,000 transactions that would have otherwise been done at the OMV.

However, the wait times are still an issue.

According to the official data, at least five people waited more than five hours in the first three weeks of the month.

Campbell said the longest wait times were for the most complicated transactions, but nearly everyone we spoke with had longer wait times than the 1.5 hour average, no matter what type of transaction they were making.

However, Campbell didn't believe the stories FOX 8 relayed to him.

"Everybody has a tendency to overestimate the amount of time that they were actually there, and I understand that. An hour and a half is too long to wait," said Campbell.

The commissioner stuck to the official data, even when FOX 8 showed him a video of different people explaining how long they waited.

The video included people such as 15-year-old Ariana Mehrabani, who was at the New Orleans OMV on Friday, August 2 to take her permit test.

She showed us the ticket that was issued to her - it showed that she was there at 11:54 a.m. FOX  8 was there as she waited until the office closed after 4:30 p.m. - and she was never seen.

When asked if there was a possibility that the official wait times weren't accurate, Campbell responded, "I would tell you that people didn't tell you the truth. I would tell you that and that's all I can say to you. I don't want to call anybody a liar, but this is the best system that we have."

Campbell says he is looking into reducing wait times by possibly adding a kiosk to the New Orleans location so customers can complete simple transactions without waiting in line, and he's speaking with Jefferson Parish officials about opening another location there, among other things.

Campbell reminds everybody that many transactions can be completed from the comfort of your own home at

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