I recently asked D.C. residents what they thought of their Department of Motor Vehicles. I was getting mixed signals based on the occasional letter. To my surprise, your responses were overwhelmingly favorable.

This is particularly poignant because most people who write to me complain about local government. Somebody seems to be doing something right at DMV. Here's a sample:

Dear Dr. Gridlock:

I have nothing but huzzahs for the D.C. DMV. On a Tuesday morning in mid-September, I was able to get my driver's license renewed in 22 minutes, timed from the minute I walked in the building to when I left it. This included the eye test and photo. The DMV staff was uniformly efficient and pleasant. The process was well organized, and the waiting room even has comfortable chairs. Can't ask for more.

Lisa Hoffman


Dear Dr. Gridlock:

My experience with the D.C. Department of Motor Vehicles deserves to be reported. First, I posted my register-by-mail papers for my car on a Monday and got the registration tag in the Friday mail!

There was a slight problem, though. I didn't get a residential parking permit. To correct this, I first had to change the address on my license.

The amazing stories continue: On a Tuesday afternoon, with help from the monitor who handles the line at the 301 C St. NW office, I was assigned a processing number and was holding my new license within 10 minutes!

Then I was directed to the "express line" for registration problems in Room 1032. It may have taken longer to walk there than it did to get my new registration with my residential parking permit. All my problems were straightened out in 20 minutes.

It's great to see how planning can make an agency really work!

Armand Lione


Dear Dr. Gridlock:

I had my car inspected at the station at 1001 Half St. SW on Sept. 25 at 10:25 a.m. From beginning to end the process took 14 minutes. I was processed through Lane 8 in a most courteous and efficient manner.

When I couldn't locate my high beams indicator, an attendant assisted me without insulting me. When I asked the attendant why they received such negative press, he responded that I should not believe everything I read!

My grade for the D.C. DMV is an "A."

Elois Hamlin


Dear Dr. Gridlock:

It took me 90 minutes and foot-shifting in three different lines last June to get a copy of my lost auto registration at the jammed ersatz DMV office on H Street NE.

Several employees were doing nothing but directing traffic, managing lines that streamed a block out the door, etc. Parking there is also inadequate. Serious bummer.

On the other hand, knowing that there is zero parking at the downtown DMV, I went online in late September to renew that very registration, and the whole procedure took about five minutes. The new combined parking and registration sticker arrived within a week. Serious applause. Why can't lost documents be resupplied online, too?

Joanne Omang


Dear Dr. Gridlock:

I recently had a perfectly fine experience with D.C.'s DMV.

I re-registered my car online, paid for it online and received my new registration/parking pass within one week. The whole online process took about 10 minutes, and everything was very clearly marked. The D.C. government Web site was very easy to navigate.

I highly recommend it.

Todd Goren


Mr. Goren used www.dc.gov, the D.C. government Web site, then looked under "Citizen Services" and clicked on "Motor Vehicles."

Dear Dr. Gridlock:

In May, I tried to act on a DMV offer to obtain re-registration and parking permit by e-mail. What I got on my screen was a notice that I did not have a current, valid safety check on my 1987 vehicle. I knew, of course, that I did have one, but there was no way for me to get the system to smarten up.

So I went in person to the Georgetown office, wondering how I could get them to come out and look at the sticker on my vehicle.

Wow. I was met with courtesy, an explanation of how the system in its Internet phase was not keeping up with complicated matters like whether I have a current safety sticker and was given all that I came for.

I walked out in 10 minutes or less with my registration, my neighborhood parking sticker and a good feeling about the people I had just been dealing with.

Elliott Roberts


Dear Dr. Gridlock:

How ironic that you should print a letter that described an excruciating DMV experience so similar to mine on the day I finally, after over seven months, picked up and mounted my vanity license plates.

I was only able to make my request online after several calls to their computer contractor to get the system to accept it. That was last March, after several failed attempts in February. But I did receive a Transaction Confirmation Number, and my reservation fee was charged to my credit card that day.

There is no system in place to tell the applicant when the plates are ready to be picked up, so I made several calls after the six-to-eight-week period. I continued to make calls for five months. Frequently, the telephones were not working. My calls were frequently met with discourteous, even insolent, responses.

Lower-level staff would not forward calls to superiors, and the superiors, when not on official travel or sick leave, would not return calls.

I called the mayor's hotline, and the kind person who tried to intervene and learn when, if ever, my plates would be ready could not get answers.

Vanity plates are a profit maker for the D.C. government. You asked what grade I would give them? They and their D.C. Council overseers all deserve an "F."

Chuck Sherman


Dear Dr. Gridlock:

I continue to be very pleased by the service at the DMV. Just a couple of weeks ago, I needed to turn in the license plates of a car I had sold.

When I arrived at the C Street office, I didn't see any signs indicating where one should go to turn in tags, so I popped into the first door I came to and asked directions.

The very pleasant woman employee said, "I can do that for you," and a minute later, I left, receipt in hand. In my book, it doesn't get much better than that.

Vicki Breman


Thank you for these responses. A list of the half-dozen DMV locations, along with their hours and services, can be found at dmv.washingtondc.gov/main.shtm.

Transportation researcher Diane Mattingly contributed to this column.

Dr. Gridlock appears Sunday in the Metro section and Thursday in District Extra. You can write to Dr. Gridlock, 1150 15th St. NW, Washington, D.C. 20071. He prefers to receive e-mail, at drgridlock@washpost.com, or faxes, at 703-352-3908. Please include your full name, town, county and day and evening phone numbers. Dr. Gridlock cannot take phone calls.