Some drivers turned away at Austin-area DPS mega center

Traci Anderson waits in line with her son and others at DPS' Pflugerville driver license mega center, July 20, 2016 (KXAN Photo)
Traci Anderson waits in line with her son and others at DPS' Pflugerville driver license mega center, July 20, 2016 (KXAN Photo)

PFLUGERVILLE, Texas (KXAN) — The area’s newest and largest driver’s license center has become the source of early morning lines this summer for people hoping to get their driver test without an appointment.

Wednesday morning, KXAN cameras were there as people showed up before dawn only to be turned away when the facility opened at 7:30 a.m. when staff established a cut-off point, customers said.

“I hear it’s this way every single day. It seems kind of pointless to have a policy stated on the website as ‘walk-in’ if you have to get here at 5 a.m.,” complained Traci Anderson, an Austin mother of an 18 year old. “And you don’t know that unless you come and find out and can’t get in.”

Anderson says her college-bound son needs to complete his driving test and obtain his Texas license to apply for student loans. Booking an appointment online she says, and waiting four to eight weeks, was not an option. She said at 6 a.m. Wednesday, she counted 55 people in line. Her son was number 22 and got his chance to test.

DPS DRIVER TESTS AT PFLUGERVILLE MEGA CENTER BY MONTH

  • July ’15: 2,505
  • Aug. ’15: 2,379
  • Sept. ’15: 2,146
  • Oct. ’15: 2,168
  • Nov. ’15: 1,778
  • Dec. ’15: 2,044
  • Jan. ’16: 2,063
  • Feb. ’16: 2,149
  • Mar. ’16: 2,063
  • Apr. ’16: 1,940
  • May ’16: 1,994
  • June ’16: 2,176
  • July ’16: 1,218 (to date)

Source: Texas Department of Public Safety

At first she and her son showed up Monday at 8:30 a.m. She says staff told her to return at 5 a.m. another day if she expected to even see a drive test examiner.

“He may not even pass. And we have to do this all over again!” said Anderson.

DPS records show an average 125 driver tests were completed each business day in July 2015, up from an average of 89 in November last year. This July so far has seen more than 1,200 people take driver tests.

One man told KXAN he showed up at 1:30am to make sure he was one of the first people in line. Others around him had brought lawn chairs, blankets and snacks as if they were waiting for a Black Friday sale or highly-anticipated concert tickets.

Mega center opened in 2012

When the state’s first driver mega center opened in October 2012, managers boasted it could handle more than 700 people a day at 22 service kiosks. It was one of eight DPS opened since having the goal of reducing long waits and service delays at other DPS licensing centers.

A driver license office staff member speaks to Traci Anderson about which line to get in.
A driver license office staff member speaks to Traci Anderson about which line to get in.

Despite the lines for driver tests, wait times appeared less for other services such as driver license photo updates and license renewals.

KXAN asked DPS why the agency’s walk-in driver testing area in Pflugerville appears so overburdened.

A DPS spokesperson responded in an email, “Traditionally driver license offices are especially busy during the summer when students and families are on vacation… Walk-ins will be accommodated as resources permit, however the department strongly recommends that customers to secure a drive test appointment in advance to avoid any inconvenience or delay since walk-in appointments are limited and pre-scheduled appointments are given priority.”

DPS also offers several online options for completing driver’s license or identification card transactions either online at www.Texas.gov or via the phone at 1-866-357-3639. Customers can check if they are eligible to take advantage of the online or phone options.

As well, several driver license locations across the state now offer technology that allow customers to get in line before arriving at an office.

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