Motor Vehicle Administration Reduces Costs as Transactions Rise

By Len Lazarick,

While other units of the Maryland Department of Transportation have been roughed up at budget subcommittees in recent weeks, the Motor Vehicle Administration breezed through Friday before a Senate panel.

MVA came away unscathed from legislative budget cutters mainly because its number of transactions last year was up 3% to 12.1 million while its costs went down .4% and the productivity of its employees was up.

“This is very popular with the secretary’s office,” Acting Deputy Transportation Secretary Leif Dormsjo told the Senate Public Safety, Transportation and Environment budget subcommittee, “but not with the other modal administrators” who head MDOT’s transit, highway, port and aviation operations.

The increased productivity at MVA is partially due to its efforts to increase the number of Marylanders using the Internet and phone to pay vehicle registration fees and renew driver’s licenses.

Virtual future for MVA

“We try to discourage our customers from coming into our offices,” said MVA administrator John Kuo. “The future of the MVA is to be as virtual as possible” as the agency attempts to “touch our customers in a different way.”

MVA’s goal is to have 40% of all transactions processed without a visit to the office, and the administration is now at 38.7%, up from 24% 10 years ago. Over that time, the operating cost per transaction has fluctuated, but it went down from $14.62 in 2003 to $13.27 in fiscal 2012.

There were still 5.7 million walk-in visits to the two dozen MVA offices around the state. Despite staffing cuts, the average wait time for service has dropped to around 20 minutes, half of what it was in 2006.

But according to the MVA’s annual report, those numbers vary pretty widely, depending on which office Marylanders visit. Based on surveys filled out by 70,000 MVA customers last year, the wait time was 20 minutes or below at three express offices, but it was over an hour at four of the MVA’s full service offices – those in Beltsville, Gaithersburg, Largo and White Oak.

“It’s generally the more complicated transaction which takes the longer wait time,” said budget analyst Steven McCulloch.

Overall the subcommittee members were impressed. “It’s come a long way at the MVA,” said committee chair James Ed DeGrange. “You’ve done a great job,” he told Kuo, who’s been administrator since 2006.

The governor is seeking $185 million for the MVA in fiscal 2014, an 8.6% increase, but most of the increase comes from federal funds which are up 140% in the coming year.

Testimony also included a progress report on compliance with the REAL ID Act for driver’s licenses. In December, the U.S. Department of Homeland Security determined that Maryland was one of 13 states that had met the act’s standards. The act established minimum security standards for license issuance and production to be accepted by federal agencies. DHS has given a temporary deferment to the other states.

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