Texas proposal to close 87 driver license offices would leave 78 counties without centers

Going to get one’s driver’s license from the local government office is pretty universally hated. I just spent hours waiting in the sun outside my local Department of Motor Vehicles to get a new license myself and the mood was universally gloomy.

Now I feel a little better about my measly couple of hours in California after reading about the nightmare times at Texas driver license centers. There are reports of ridiculously long waits up to 8 hours at the Texas Department of Public Safety (DPS) centers—many of which include hours of waiting in the sun during hot temperatures. One man even lost his job because he took too much time off from work to renew his license—something necessary for his job.

With DPS among the agencies under review this year, there’s a chance to alleviate this problem. However, there’s a new proposal that may get in the way—closing 87 centers as a way to close smaller offices and push more people to the megacenters (which are already claiming eight-hour wait times). A vast majority of the centers proposed to close are the only centers in their county, which would lead to longer travel times.

Fortunately, there is opposition to the position as it stands. Eight state senators and sixteen representatives wrote a letter to the chair of the Sunset Commission that will decide whether to accept the DPS’s recommendation, explaining that money saved wouldn’t be worth the cost to rural residents.

“We have been told the dollar savings from the closing of the 87 offices would amount to approximately $760,000. However, the wasted dollars and inefficiencies suffered by the citizens of these rural counties will in the long run exceed these savings,” the letter says.

They also highlight that the current system already places an extra burden on their constituents. “Additionally, most rural citizens already drive many miles from home to their county office to receive those services. By closing these offices, it would mean these citizens would have to travel several counties away to receive services.”

It’s hard not to worry about the impact these center closures would have on voters. The state already has one of the most strict voter ID laws in the country and adding miles (and time) to someone’s trip for identification will inevitably be a barrier for some. 

If you’re a Texas resident and want to weigh in on the proposal before they make their final recommendation, submit your comment through the Sunset Commission’s input form and select “Department of Public Safety (DPS)” from the dropdown menu.

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