Tuesday, November 25, 2014

Wanted: A DMV

IL Secretary of State Jesse White's decision, coming soon after he was reelected to the position, to shut down the Champaign DMV facility, which serves Champaign, Urbana and Savoy (supposedly the third-fastest growing Metropolitan region in Illinois), is a very ill-thought out, even knee-jerk reaction to what has been a festering problem getting worse over years of neglect. It's no secret that the Champaign DMV facility was bursting at the seams - some people have even found that it takes less time to drive to Monticello, get your work done, and drive back than to do it in town.

The Champaign DMV needed an overhaul and a drastic expansion, nobody can argue against that. Things got so bad in the end that the building was getting overcrowded and the line stretched so far out that a tent had to be put up to protect people from the elements (or try to, anyway). The facility even had to end the system of appointments because of the huge rush and move to first-come-first-serve instead, which made it ridiculously hard to take a driving test. But all this didn't happen in one day, it has been building up over a long time. Enrollment at the U of I, which is at the heart of Urbana-Champaign, has been rising steadily while the Research Park near Savoy has been attracting more employment to the area over the last few years. It was obvious from simple census data that the Champaign DMV was far too small for such a fast-growing community. But inaction it seems is the way things work in Springfield.

While a new facility certainly needs to be found, the area cannot do without a DMV. It is not reasonable to give people no choice but to drive to Rantoul or all the way to Bloomington for a service that they pay taxes for in their own city. If it was just a matter of a few weeks, perhaps it could have been acceptable but the SOS Office claims it can take half a year - a completely unreasonable timeframe. The best way would have been to maintain a temporary facility, particularly for the large body of International students and the poor who do not own a car but would like to have a drivers license or State ID. This could have strictly enforced an appointments system or discouraged dependence to make sure that only those with no choice come to it. The mobile SOS unit, run once a month from the Illini Union, could also have been scaled up to possibly a week a month to handle some of the load. But to completely shut down such an important facility in the area is beyond reason.

Incidentally, some reports suggest that the surge in applications in the neighboring SOS Facilities because of this closure is straining the system even there. One hopes that Governor-elect Bruce Rauner makes it a priority to fix this surreal situation in Illinois, where the state is grossly unequipped and even uninterested in managing an issuing that has been building up for a long time. And Champaign-Urbana's current and newly-elected representatives need to do more than pay mere lip service. 

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