Wait times at Connecticut DMV branches have gone down an average of 44.7 percent over the last year, according to data from the DMV.
Wait times at every branch went down between August 2018 and August of this year, but the largest decrease was in Waterbury, where the average wait time went down 63.6 percent, from nearly an hour and a half to little more than 30 minutes.
Last year, the average wait time was one hour, 17 minutes and 12 seconds. In August of this year, the average wait time was 42 minutes and 44 seconds.
The smallest decrease in wait times year over year was in Bridgeport, where drivers waited an hour on average last year, and 48 minutes on average this year, a decrease of 22 percent.
As of August 2019, the longest wait times are in Enfield, where drivers are waiting an average of 54 minutes.
Connecticut DMV Commissioner Sibongile Magubane attributed the decreases in wait times to a few factors, among them “appropriate staffing levels,” and certain efficiencies like “Ensuring document compliance prior to customer waiting in line to ensure successful transactions.”
Magubane also cited “increased production from business partners,” like AAA, which handles simpler transactions.
She also said the DMV is working on “realigning transactions and routing customers to appropriate lines,” meaning drivers in line for less complex tasks — like plate cancellations — are better organized.
But Alex Petralia said average wait times only tell a portion of the story.
Petralia, a freelance software engineer in Stamford, built an online tool to tell users average wait times by time and day at every DMV branch in Connecticut.
“A lot of people have frustrations with the DMV and I think this gives them another way to look at it,” he said.
Petralia’s tool also allows a user to filter by task, and the expected wait time might change significantly depending on what a driver is trying to do — what letter is emblazoned on the slip of paper they were handed at the door.
“The wait times differ substantially by service,” he said. “Some lines are just speeding through and you’re waiting there, thinking, ‘Why is my number not being called?’”
For example, in Norwalk a driver attempting an out-of-state license transfer on a Wednesday at 12:50 p.m. should expect to wait 18 minutes.
A different driver at the same place and time trying to get a new license might wait 30 minutes or more.
Wednesdays, by the way, are the busiest days of the week, according to Petralia’s tool, which scrapes data directly from the DMV website.
Some people read a book while they’re waiting at the DMV, or text friends, or check emails. Petralia conceived of a tool to make his wait time shorter.
“The reason for this is I had to go the Danbury DMV to get my license transferred,” he said.
Though it varies branch to branch, the longest wait times on Wednesdays are 10 a.m. The lowest wait times are on Fridays at 9:45 a.m., when the wait time is about nine-and-a-half minutes.
Petralia speculated that Wednesdays are the worst days because of an attempt at “game theory,” drivers guessing that most people won’t show up to the DMV on Wednesdays, resulting in crowds on Wednesdays.
“I actually think people are trying to figure out when everybody’s going,” he said.
The one caveat with Petralia’s tool is that it’s only been collecting DMV wait time data for a week. So while he said the data is accurate, “It will get more accurate over time.”
Earlier this year, Gov. Ned Lamont promoted a bill intended to reduce overall wait times at the DMV. “Connecticut residents spend too much of their valuable time waiting in line at the DMV, and I am determined to fix that,” Lamont said in a release.
The bill allowes drivers to renew licenses every eight years, instead of every six years, and will also extend the length of time between registrations from two years to three years.
The legislature approved the bill in June. Lamont singed it into law a month later.
“By making this change, we can give some relief to those of us who find the experience of visiting a DMV office to be all too frustrating,” he said.