D.C. drivers were originally given until July 1 to get their expired licenses, tags and other documents renewed. It's now been moved to Sept. 9.
A growing number of D.C. residents say they're in a post-pandemic quandary: parking enforcement has resumed, but they can't get an appointment at the Department of Motor Vehicles to renew their licenses and tags ahead of a July 1 deadline to do so.
DMV officials say they're ramping service back up, but apparently not fast enough to meet the demand of folks who are rushing to get services that were largely suspended during the pandemic. And the situation has drawn the attention of multiple D.C. lawmakers, some of whom tweet as soon as appointments become available while others push the DMV to fully open to the public.
In response, D.C. officials said Wednesday they're extending the deadline another two months.
"To ensure that District residents have ample time to secure appointments at the District Department of Motor Vehicles, Mayor Bowser is extending the July 1 date for valid DMV credentials to Sept. 9," said Deputy Mayor Lucinda Babers in a statement.
The deadline for registration and inspections will not be extended.
Many of DMV's services can and should be done online, a DMV spokesperson said. You can only renew registration and residential parking permits online or by mail, for one. Vehicle inspections are available on a first-come, first-service basis at the Half Street SW location or a self-service station at the Takoma Community Center parking lot. And people who have a REAL ID — 92% of the city's residents — can renew their licenses online, the DMV says.
The department releases new appointments daily and says it has 6,000 appointment slots posted a week. That will increase to 10,000 slots a week starting this week, but many of those are weeks out with the earliest being the first days of July. Later this month, the Rhode Island Avenue service location will be back to full capacity after only doing Saturday appointments during COVID-19.
It's unclear how many residents need to come into the DMV. The department wasn't able to quickly provide an estimate of expiring registrations and licenses.
In recent weeks, D.C. Councilmembers like Janeese Lewis George (D-Ward 4), Christina Henderson (I-At-Large), Charles Allen (D-Ward 6), Mary Cheh (D-Ward 3), Brooke Pinto (D-Ward 2) and Elissa Silverman (I-At-Large) have been tweeting to notify constituents when appointments are available. But Lewis George says the system is broken.
"The Hunger Games appointment system didn't work for vaccines and is not working for the DMV, either," she told DCist/WAMU. "I understand why services were scaled back throughout the pandemic, but now the city has restarted parking enforcement and appointments need to be readily available."
Lewis George says she also wants to support DMV employees who deserve to be safe on the job with vaccinations and other safety precautions.
The councilmember has heard from seniors struggling to navigate the website; parents trying to get their teen a driver's license; and residents who moved here months ago but cannot get a license, license plate or get their cars registered — unless they go in person.
She says her constituent services staffers have scheduled 50 appointments and religiously comb the website daily for appointments. She's heard from residents who set alarms to remind them to check for appointments.
"We're like the search engine for DMV appointments," she says. "That's where we are."
And while the appointment scheduling and the chance of getting a ticket is a big headache, Lewis George says there are bigger real-world implications, too. She had a resident who left a message who was scared of the consequences.
"She's like, 'Look, I'm worried what happens if my Black husband gets stopped over an expired registration,'" Lewis George says. "And that's very real, you know?"
The councilmember says she's had residents tell her that officials are telling them to appeal any parking tickets and it will get sorted out later. But she says that's an unnecessary problem if the city were to just delay enforcement.
Lewis George said councilmembers have been asking Bowser's office and the department about the issue for weeks with little information beyond "more appointments are coming." She says there are two solutions: move the renewal deadlines back until the DMV can fully reopen, or suspend enforcement for now.
Bowser's office seemed to have listened; the renewal deadline is now Sept. 9.
This story is from DCist.com, the local news website of WAMU.