September 28, 2023

NJ DMV Reopening: Status and Survival Tips

So the New Jersey DMV re-opened, and… yikes. In an unquestionably foolish move, I decided to spend my precious time working all morning, figuring I’d meander on over there mid-day.

I knew it was going to be bad based on what I’d already read on social media/heard from friends. But still… a freelancer has to work to keep the money coming in. Not sure how standing on line at the DMV for seven hours would have helped me yesterday, or any day for that matter.

But I did “swing by” two NJ DMV locations, just to get a sense of what  was happening and maybe get a hold of a necessary form or two.

My first stop was Washington, NJ. Cars were parked along Route 57 – spillover from the parking lot. The line of people waiting to get inside looked like this:

My first order of business was to walk up to the policeman who was stationed out front (as you can see by the vehicles). I told him what I needed to take care of (licensing AND registering a new vehicle) and he was very nice and helpful. During our convo, a lady emerged from inside the DMV and he mentioned to her that I needed to update my license… so she handed me the form. However, as soon as I looked at the form, I saw some questions on there that I wasn’t sure how to respond to. So I tucked that into my  bag and left.

Later on in the day after taking care of some other personal business, because, you know… LIFE… I ventured down to the Flemington, NJ DMV (also known as the “MVC” – Motor Vehicle Commission). That sounds like a very authoritative title, if you ask me. So one would think that one would be able to register their vehicle at such a place… but no. The new, fun rules are that you can conduct license related business at this facility, but not at the Washington DMV – that’s for titling. I think. I’m not actually sure. It could change by the time you read this. Everything is always changing. Your best bet is to visit the NJ DMV Website which is now referred to as the New Jersey Motor Vehicles Commission.

So, Route 31 was the same situation was the other agency – the cars were parked right along the highway. It was slow going into the entrance behind the line of other cars… and I actually jumped out a few times to see if I was in the wrong line (I was! Good thing I checked.)

So the scene here was extremely disorganized. There was no person of authority to be found anywhere. The line of humans stretched for miles and everyone appeared to be milling about. Within 5 minutes of standing there, I asked someone where the end of the line was. Lo and behold, it was far away in the opposite direction.

The woman in front of me was clutching her vehicle’s title (it was flapping in the breeze a bit), and passport. I don’t remember how we started talking but I finally pointed out to her the sign right next to us which looked like this.

You probably can’t read it due to the reflective glass. But it says that titling is handled at the Washington, NJ location and NOT the Flemington (which is where we were). So after I broke the news to her, she left. One down, seven thousand more to go! (I don’t know if there were seven thousand… sure seemed that way).

I would also like to dedicate a song to the man standing in line behind me. We both wore masks, and his was clearly tight-fitting and pulled snugly over nose and mouth. But I guess he wasn’t so great with spatial perception or something.

If I could speak to the Powers that Be who run the NJ Dept of Motor Vehicles, this is what I’d suggest:

Station a DMV employee outside to direct people. Just get ONE worker to go outside and help direct all of the people who are roaming about, confused. I realize that because you work for the government, no one cares. Yes. I get that every time I speak to any government association on the phone. BUT it would really be so helpful just to have ONE person out there running through a list of questions to ask the people in line. You could eliminate so many people on line if you did that! You could streamline the whole operation… I’m just saying.

Get another worker to pass out forms. “What service are you here for?” Go this way. “What forms do you need?” They could distribute the forms. The fact that a lady had emerged from the doorway just as I was standing there talking to the cop was a stroke of luck. She HAD the form and handed it to me. I would never have gotten a form otherwise.

How crazy would it be if someone was stationed outside, handing out forms? That wouldn’t be crazy at all. That would make sense!

Extend your operating hours. Another helpful, unsolicited suggestion: How about extending your business hours to make up for all the time lost during the pandemic-related closures? I mean really. How are people supposed to do their jobs, watch their kids, AND make it to the DMV during daytime hours? It’s impossible! This is insanity, I tell you.

How about some porta-potties? This is just a gross thought, but hey. What other option do people have, waiting in line from 3 a.m. and on? Really and truly, at least 4 people told me they’d been there, waiting outside in the hot sun for seven hours. SEVEN!

Feed the masses. While you’re at it, food vendors wouldn’t be a bad idea. I talked to some parents of kids there who were waiting to get their drivers’ licenses. The kids were thirsty and starving. Their parents left to go get pizza and bring it to them. Just a lot of needless coming and going.

Tips for People Who Have Business to Take Care of at the DMV.

  • Bring your mask and put it on! I know, it’s hot. I use a bandana. At least it’s 100% cotton.
  • Stay back. Six feet apart, you know the rules by now.
  • Don’t drink coffee before you head out. You’ll want to, of course. You’ll be bored to tears and ready to pass out waiting on line for seven hours. But there isn’t any place to go to the bathroom. Maybe inside the agency. But you’ll never get in there, so.
  • Take a seat. Bring a lightweight chair or blanket to sit on. I saw people doing this… smart idea. I’m not doing it, as I don’t care to lug a bunch of crap around in the heat. But you can!
  • Hydrate. Bring a COOLER of water or sports drinks. You’ll dehydrate out there if you don’t. It was 90 degrees yesterday!
  • Pack snacks. Take along some provisions. But not too many snacks or drinks, mind you, because you might have to use the bathroom and there isn’t one.
  • Wear sunscreen.  I saw some sunburned skin at 4:15 p.m.
  • DON’T bring your kids. Just don’t.
  • Visit the DMV website before you head out. You’ll likely end up more confused than ever, but do it anyway. It’s possible they will post something there that could be of use. I check the site on Sunday but when I clicked on the list of agencies and who handles what, nothing was there. But when I looked again on Tuesday, I saw an update! 😀

Also… you might be able to handle some DMV transactions online.

(I wasn’t able to, but  maybe you will.)

Thanks for reading this. Maybe I’ll see you at the DMV. Hopefully not, though.


The information presented herein is opinion based, and in no way affiliated with the actual NJ Dept of Motor Vehicles. As the author of this blog post, I am in no way responsible for any circumstance you may encounter at the DMV or as a result of your involvement with their agency. I am simply a resident of NJ writing about my experience. I am not a lawmaker, government official or anyone of any sort of authority as pertaining to the DMV. I have no affiliation with the NJ Dept. of Motor Vehicles whatsoever. If you have any issue that must be handled by their agency, please note that I cannot help you in any way.

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