Time it was in a few administrations ago that a visit to what we used to call the DMV was like a visit to the third ring of hell.

Long lines, surely counter people, customers who always seemed to be recent escapees from Greystone, and security guards ready to pounce at a moment’s notice.

A little something like this:

Not a good way to get a license renewal.

Then, as memory serves, along came Jimmy from Woodbridge – former Governor and admitted (in his book) rest stop patron, riding in on his trusty steed with a new DMV Commissioner in tow who made it her business to wipe away all the bad pub amassed from years of neglect.

Alas, it took some time, but over that period, the bad old DMV was whitewashed with a brand new name – the MVC; and new procedures put in place to eliminate those arduous trips down to the office.

According to this:

The recent move allowing New Jersey drivers to renew their licenses by mail has proved to be one of the most significant time-saving changes ever made by the Motor Vehicle Commission (known as the DMV until about a decade ago). New Jersey just received its 500,000th license renewal in the mail — 17 months after the "Skip the Trip" program began for people born prior to Dec. 1, 1964, and four months after it was expanded to all drivers.

Average customer wait times in the 10 busiest agencies have been reduced by at least 45 percent — going from between 16 and 54 minutes before the expanded mail-in option in August to between eight and 30 minutes in October, according to the MVC.

Gov. Chris Christie jokes that MVC Chief Administrator Ray Martinez is getting people out of the offices so quickly, "he’s trying to put himself out of business."

But this has been a long journey. Martinez stands on the shoulders of other intrepid bureaucrats who tried to solve the DMV dilemma, once thought to be an inevitable part of life in the Garden State.

Most notable was former MVC Chief Administrator Sharon Harrington, who was appointed by former Gov. Jim McGreevey in 2004 and stayed until 2009.

She reopened the offices on Saturdays and trained workers at all centers to handle driver’s licenses for noncitizens — instead of only the four regional centers where those licenses were processed.

Martinez extended the hours on Saturdays and Tuesday and Thursday nights and in August expanded the trip-skipping option for drivers wanting to renew their licenses by mail.
Instead of returning to an MVC office every four years to renew a license, motorists can bypass the four-year trip and renew by mail, keeping them out of the MVC office for eight years between visits.

Motorists receive a reminder about two months before their license is set to expire, and an updated license with the same photo returns in the mail within 10 business days of receipt of payment.

Mail renewal is not permitted for motorists with a commercial driver’s license, graduated driver’s license, temporary visa restriction, boat license, suspension or interlock device.

Christie said Martinez is turning around an agency that was "not very friendly."

"He has made it more efficient, more friendly, to the point where now he’s trying to put himself out of business, for heaven’s sake, by having you be able to do everything online, do everything by mail so you don’t have to even show up anymore," the governor said during a recent event with Martinez at a restaurant in North Bergen.

Martinez said in August that over the next 12 months, 1.5 million New Jersey residents would have the option of skipping a trip to commission offices, saving 650,000 wait hours across the state.

Based on previous trends, he was anticipating about 1 million people taking advantage of the offer over 12 months, resulting in less crowded MVC offices.

The MVC has embarked on a wintertime advertising campaign and set up a website (SkipItList.com) showing the pleasurable activities that customers could be participating in instead of waiting in lines, such as shopping for Christmas presents or ice skating and making snow angels with children.

I don’t know that it will ever become THAT pleasurable; but it sure is light years away from what it used to be.

At least as far as I can tell.

I'd probably have to give it an 8.5 on a scale of 1 to 10!