Computer outages, confusion hit MVC offices once again
Above: Gov. Chris Christie visits the South Plainfield MVC after a caller to New Jersey 101.5's "Ask the Governor" said she got the runaround, trying to replace her son's driver permit.
The timing couldn't be worse.
For at least the third time this week, several New Jersey Motor Vehicle offices appeared to be experiencing significant computer outages Friday midday — frustrating residents during what's typically one of the busiest times of the month for MVCs, as driver licenses and vehicle registration renewals come due.
UPDATE: A spokesperson for the MVC said systems were restored after about a half hour — but it appears not all offices got the word quickly. More on that below.
New Jersey 101.5 Meteorologist Dan Zarrow, at the South Plainfield location to get his own license renewed, said workers there announced computer problems at 11:15 a.m. and have since stopped letting people in the door. No paperwork could be processed, he said.
He said workers there blamed the problem on "Trenton," but weren't more specific.
At 11:52 a.m., the MVC tweeted that systems were up and running — though it hadn't previously mentioned any outage via own social media channels Friday. Shortly after, MVC spokewoman Mairin Bellack told New Jersey 101.5 computers were in fact back up after a half-hour outage, but Zarrow said even at that point, South Plainfield workers were saying systems remained down.
There seemed to be confusion or lingering at other locations as well, MVC users reported in via Twitter:
Bellack said it seemed staffers at the South Plainfield office "misspoke," and that she called them personally to clarify systems were once again running.
Many New Jersey MVC systems depend on a centralized mainframe — and a single problem can have effects throughout all MVC facilities. Officials say they're working to move away from an antiquated system, and when they do, such statewide problems should be rare.
But in the meantime, MVC customers have seen outages throughout the week — first on Tuesday, then on Thursday.
Representatives of the agency told New Jersey 101.5 early Friday they had been expecting smooth operations — with extra customer service and IT staff on hand.
Several callers told New Jersey 101.5 Wednesday morning they were continuing to see long lines and other problems — not only this week — at the South Plainfield MVC. That's the same location Zarrow was at.
It's also the same location Gov. Chris Christie visited with an upset mother after she called into New Jersey 101.5’s Ask the Governor to say she’d gotten the runaround trying to get her son a new driver permit.
Jeff Edelstein — subbing in for Steve Trevelise on New Jersey 101.5's evening show — said his wife recently was met with a renewal line that took more than four hours. Ray Martinez, the MVC Commissioner, called in and responded.
He said the MVC has had “unusually high volumes” for registration and license renewal recently, but conceded such lines are “not acceptable.”
He urged people to take advantage of the invite-only “Skip the Trip” program that allows people to renew their licenses by mail. Of the 35,000 people offered to use the “Skip the Trip” program in July, 28 percent took advantage of the opportunity, according to Martinez.
Martinez said invitations will more than double in August, with 90,000 going out, and will increase to 117,000 in September.
It wasn't immediately clear how online functions were affected Friday. The MVC allows registration renewals and several other functions through its website, but not yet driver license renewals.