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Fargo's growing population impacts DMV wait times

FARGO - By the time Zach Gillund made it to the driver's license site office in Fargo around 3:30 p.m. Monday, the line had spilled out the door. He got in line, but quickly changed his mind and left.

People fill in the waiting area at the Department of Motor Vehicles in Fargo, N.D. on Wednesday, July 1, 2015. Carrie Snyder / The Forum
People fill in the waiting area at the Department of Motor Vehicles in Fargo, N.D. on Wednesday, July 1, 2015. Carrie Snyder / The Forum

FARGO – By the time Zach Gillund made it to the driver's license site office in Fargo around 3:30 p.m. Monday, the line had spilled out the door. He got in line, but quickly changed his mind and left.

Gillund came back around the same time Wednesday for another try, and within about 30 minutes, his number was called.

"The wait doesn't really bother me," he said.

Fargo's quickly growing population has added customers for both of the license site and motor vehicle division offices, but the two branches have felt the impact differently. At the driver's license office, the problem is the wait, which customers say takes about 30 or 45 minutes. About a mile away at the motor vehicle office the shorter, 10- to 20-minute wait is spent standing in a crammed office.

The time spent waiting for license renewals hasn't changed much over the past year, said Glenn Jackson, director of the driver's license division for the North Dakota Department of Transportation.

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Department officials noticed an initial increase in customers in 2008, Jackson said, and began working to reduce the wait about two years later.

One of the biggest changes has been the implementation of NEMO-Q, a small kiosk that walks people through a series of questions, gives them a number and places them in one of five lines based on their needs.

The inside of the building was also restructured about 2010 to ease customer movement, Jackson said. Now there's a large waiting room placed in front of several windows with attendants behind them.

Michelle Losing said she expected to be at the office for more than the 10 minutes it took to get her new license Wednesday.

"I thought it would be a lot longer," she said. "Seems like it's always busy no matter when you come."

NDDOT doesn't keep track of average wait times at the license departments because they fluctuate based on the time of day and day of the week.

Both the motor vehicle and driver's license departments experience waves of customers over the lunch hour and in the late afternoon. At the license department, more people tend to show up on Mondays and Fridays.

A small space to wait

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Many of the area's new residents brought their cars with them, so the motor vehicle division office has seen more customers in line for things like tab renewals.

Fargo's motor vehicle division manager Sandy Boehler said she's aware that the Fargo population has outgrown her small office in a shared commercial building at 855 45th St. S.

"I am even surprised at how busy we have gotten," Boehler said. "I never thought we would be this busy."

The line of customers can quickly fill the office and then begins to spill out the front door.

Boehler's search for a new office space has become more active in the last six months.

The right spot wouldn't just be a bigger building, she said, it would also need ample parking and ideally be near a few car dealerships.

The office has been housed in the same building since 1999, Boehler said, when Fargo was home to about 25,000 fewer people.

The state processed more than 1 million vehicle registrations last year, up from about 870,000 in 2008, according to data from the North Dakota Department of Transportation.

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There are about 20 motor vehicle branches across the state, said Linda Sitz, NDDOT's director of motor vehicle, and officials do not have plans to add any.

People fill in the waiting area at the Department of Motor Vehicles in Fargo, N.D. on Wednesday, July 1, 2015. Carrie Snyder / The Forum
Arlene Peterson, left, and Zach Gillund, right, look through their phones while waiting to renew their drivers licenses at the Department of Motor Vehicles in Fargo, N.D. on Wednesday, July 1, 2015. Carrie Snyder / The Forum

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