DMV customers report months-long waits for appointments in Fairfax County

Fairfax County residents in need of Department of Motor Vehicle services are finding they need to book an appointment months in advance.

In response to those reported concerns, the county Board of Supervisors agreed on Tuesday (July 27) to contact the state to see how it will address wait times.

Springfield District Supervisor Pat Herrity said residents have reported that they’re traveling as far as three hours away to South Hill to get DMV services.

“Given that DMV services are essential, Fairfax County residents should not have to wait over a month or be forced to go to other parts of Virginia for an appointment,” Herrity said.

The DMV introduced the appointment system when it reopened sites in May 2020 after a pandemic-induced shutdown. During that time frame, it has also added more online capabilities to help reduce foot traffic.

“We are not yet where we need to be, but we are proud of the progress we’ve made from implementing a brand new appointment system in the height of a global pandemic a little more than a year ago,” DMV spokeswoman Jessica Cowardin said in a statement.

On a recent visit to a DMV center in Tysons, Great Falls resident Barbara Martin found the experience quite different compared to when walk-ins were allowed, which would result in dozens of people crowding into the building.

Martin booked her appointment about a month and a half ago and said she was relieved to be there, expressing appreciation for the staff’s attention to details.

With no DMV centers in the immediate Reston/Herndon area, the closest location for residents is the Sterling center (100 Free Court), which reopened in August 2020. The department also opened a new customer service center in Sterling (22360 S. Sterling Blvd., Unit D112) this past January.

“By installing an appointment system we have become more efficient, transactions are conducted quickly and customer wait times have been minimized,” Cowardin wrote. “And appointment availability will continue to increase as we are able to hire and train employees and emerge more fully from the pandemic, which is still ongoing.”

Chai Chala of McLean says he lucked out and only had to wait 10 days for an appointment at the Tysons DMV center (1968 Gallows Road), which he visited to register a new car.

“The experience was really nice,” he said, adding his only complaint was the sun’s heat.

Since reopening, the DMV added several services to its website that can save customers a trip to a physical building.

In September, it introduced two-year renewals for driver’s licenses and ID cars by online and mail, and in November, it began online renewals for commercial driver’s licenses. As of February, it also now offers drivers the ability to replace licenses and permits that were lost or stolen.

Customers can also get appointments with DMV Select partner officers, which conduct vehicle-related transactions, as well as DMV Connect, a team of mobile workers whose regular stops include the Fairfax County Government Center.

Cowardin said the DMV intends to keep the appointment system for the foreseeable future, noting that the vast majority of transactions conducted since May 2020 have been conducted remotely.

“During the pandemic, customers shifted the way they conduct business with DMV in that more customers are now conducting DMV business by service delivery methods other than the [customer service centers], such as mail, internet, online dealers or DMV Select partners,” she noted.

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