It's been said that of all public services rendered by the District government, the Bureau of Motor Vehicles is held in lowest esteem by residents. It would be nice if either Sharon Pratt Dixon or Maurice Turner, in the bid for the mayor's office, had a program for reforming the BMV. The one who has the best plan should win.
Consider the following. A few months ago I bought a motorcycle. The only obstacle between me and the road was its registration and licensure.
Now, I expected some hassle in obtaining the small piece of galvanized steel required for legal operation of the bike. I was prepared for at least two trips to the BMV, because not even the most prepared and diligent person ever has the right papers on the first try.
But I was not ready for this transaction to take four trips and a total of 8.5 hours. The cost of the tag and registration was minimal. The cost of the time invested (I am a attorney in solo private practice) was more than 25 percent of the price of the bike.
I took my assignment of title to the BMV, a 30-minute trip from my office on the Metro. After an hour in line I found that I could not get a D.C. title or tag without first having the bike inspected. To permit operation of the motorcycle to the inspection station, I was issued a temporary tag good for 21 days. Time invested: two hours.
The next day I took the bike to the inspection station. Motorcycles are inspected by the same people who inspect cars. After a wait of one hour and 20 minutes, my bike was subjected to a 15-second inspection of the horn and lights. I was given a notice to the effect that I had passed and told to take this back to the municipal center to obtain a tag.
Clutching this prize, I mounted the bike only to find that the stop-start time in line had killed the battery. I cannot lay this mechanical defect at the feet of the D.C. government, but it did not improve my mood. The long wait for the short inspection forced me to defer the trip for the tag until the next day. Time for inspection: 2.5 hours. Total time: 4.5 hours.
The next day, I went back to the municipal center (another 30 minutes on the Metro) to stand in line 45 minutes to get to the first window. About 30 minutes were required to figure the tax on the bike because there was nothing in the book as to the value of the model. Paying the fees and taxes and waiting for the actual tag took another 45 minutes. The trip back to my office took 30 minutes. Time for getting the tag: 3 hours. Total time: 7.5 hours.
Now I had a tag, but no inspection sticker. This required going back to the inspection station to show my tag and notice of inspection. Time: 1 hour. Total time to register the bike 8.5 hours.
Of this 8.5 hours less than an hour was devoted to the matter at hand, and the District wasn't finished with me yet. My temporary registration was marked to expire April 21. The clerk who stamped my temporary tag made it effective until April 2, an error I did not detect until I found a $100 ticket on the bike for "failure to have valid tags." To get the ticket canceled required a trip to the municipal center and a walk to Massachusetts Avenue after it was determined that the Department of Public Works had issued the ticket rather than the police. Add 2.5 hours.
No mayor can ensure that D.C. employees put the right dates on temporary tags, but the registration process should be a one-stop operation. Registration and inspection should be handled at one location, or the former by mail, thus reducing this entire mess to one trip requiring an hour or two.
While waiting in a line at the BMV, I was next to a woman who had just moved to Washington from New Hampshire and was trying to get her car registered. It was her third trip to the BMV. She was considering returning to New Hampshire, rejecting the fame and fortune that Washington promised for easy procurement of a "Live Free or Die" tag. -- Joe W. Fleming II