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Wait times at the DMV's Napa office are tied for third shortest in the state, the agency reports. 

Newly released data from the California Department of Motor Vehicles show the state making a huge dent in the wait times customers are experiencing across the state.

In a report sent to state lawmakers last month, the DMV showed it has cut delays nearly in half. As of September, customers across the state without an appointment waited an average of 38 minutes, which represents a 48 percent decrease from the average time of 73 minutes customers experienced at the same time last year.

According to the DMV, the drop stems from a substantial decline in the amount of time customers spend waiting just to get a number, as well as “increased staffing and season shifts in customer volume.”

Still, millions of Californians are expected to flood into field offices over the next year to get a Real ID card.

Under the federally mandated Real ID program scheduled to take effect on Oct. 1, 2020, customers wishing to board airplanes or enter other federal facilities, such as prisons or military bases, without a passport must go to the DMV for the special card and bring the correct documents. This is often done when customers renew their licenses.

As of November, 6.7 million customers had gotten a Real ID since the DMV started issuing the cards in January 2018, according to Anita Gore, a spokeswoman for the DMV.

This pales in comparison, however, to the 21.5 million still eligible for a Real ID card and the 10 million the DMV expects to see come in for it between now and the Oct. 1, 2020 deadline.

“We’ll have millions of Californians coming in, in a year that they normally would not be coming,” said Assemblyman Phil Ting, D-San Francisco.

“I worry when we get to July, August, and September (of 2020), we’ll have more unbearable wait times.”

You can avoid longer wait times if you come in soon.

With fewer people coming into offices during the fall and winter, the DMV is urging people to get a Real ID card immediately before lines get worse.

“If your identification card or driver license expires after the federal enforcement date, and you need a REAL ID sooner, we encourage you to apply now,” according to a statement from Steve Gordon, California’s DMV director.

Despite the progress, wait times measured in the latest report varied tremendously by office. At the Sacramento office at 4700 Broadway, customers with and without appointments waited an average of just 20 minutes. They waited 35 minutes at the Sacramento South office, however. Lines were longest in Woodland, Lodi and Vacaville.

Across the Sacramento region, 68 percent of customers were served within half an hour once they got their numbers. Customers who visited Auburn or Napa waited just 8 minutes — tied for the third fastest branches across the state.

Delays are far worse in the Bay Area and Los Angeles areas.

The DMV established a goal last year to limit delays to 15 minutes for those with appointments and 45 minutes for those without them. While the DMV is largely hitting those targets, Bay Area and Los Angeles area customers with appointments waited an average of 20 minutes in September. In the Los Angeles area, customers without appointments waited 58 minutes.

San Luis Obispo customers with and without appointments waited in line for 29 minutes and 51 minutes, respectively. In Modesto and both Fresno offices, customers with appointments waited in line longer than the 15 minute target the DMV established.

Meanwhile, technology problems continue.

Reports sent to the Joint Legislative Budget Committee show the DMV experienced 20 technology failures in August and September. The issues included non-functional kiosks, unresponsive document authentication devices and a 24-hour service issue in which field offices couldn’t contact DMV headquarters or other 916 area codes.

The DMV confirmed last month it awarded a contract to Comcast valued at $24 million over five years for a major technology upgrade.

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