AUSTIN (KXAN) — The state will not close 87 little known or unlisted driver’s license centers across the state. Wednesday, a select panel that looks at efficiencies in state government known as the Sunset Commission rejected an idea proposed by their staff and the Department of Public Safety.
Now an unlisted driver’s license office frequently used by lawmakers and legislative staffers in the Robert E. Johnson building in downtown Austin will remain open.
The office along Interstate 35 in San Marcos will remain open as well.
That’s the one Andrea and Jackquline Sibrian came to for the renewal of their license. It took less than 5 minutes.
“They’re just super friendly. Every time I’ve been here it’s been really amazing. The staff is really awesome getting you in and situated and getting you out the door pretty quickly,” said Sibrian.
The mother and daughter live in Buda. They chose to come here because the driver’s license centers in Austin take way too long for them.
“It’s constantly busy up in Austin. We’ve been there before and it takes a few hours to do something very simple,” said Sibrian.
According to a 2017 report, the department currently has 77 one-person offices — almost half of which had fewer than 1,500 transactions in fiscal year 2017. These offices are “problematic” because if the employee calls in sick or is is on vacation, the office has to close.
“While some are necessary due to their rural location, others remain merely due to the status quo,” the report states.
In 2011, DPS partnered with Texas State University to conduct an analysis to see how they can locate driver’s license offices efficiently across the state.
At the time, 26 offices were identified for possible closures since the “resources could be made available to other locations” where there are a “greater number of customers.”
Since the 2011 study, six of these offices have closed, but mostly due to equipment failure and no available replacement.
The idea did not pass lawmaker scrutiny.
“We require the public to have a driver’s license if they drive a car and need to be identified,” said Sen. Bob Hall, R-Edgewood, as the committee of civilians and lawmakers voted down the proposed shutter of DL offices. “If we’re going to require the public to do something, the onus is on us to make sure that we provide the most efficient system for them, the public, in having to comply with our requirements.”
DPS is still looking to trim driver’s license services. Lawmakers this January will decide if the DMV should handle driver’s licenses like other states. Texas didn’t have a DMV until 2009 when it broke off from TxDOT, while DPS has been handling driver’s license services since 1935.
Just this week, DPS assigned troopers to all three of Austin’s high-volume driver’s license offices. Their job is to reduce lines by identifying customers who can “immediately get out of line” and get what they need to be done online, by phone or by mail.
The agency says it plans to hire 100 positions over the next few months to increase staffing at its busiest locations.