Easy street: DMV’s mobile unit comes to town

One of five DMV mobile offices. Courtesy of the Department of Motor Vehicles One of five DMV mobile offices. Courtesy of the Department of Motor Vehicles

Most people recoil at the thought of going to the DMV, so when a Department of Motor Vehicles van pulled up to Reid Super-Save Market last Thursday morning, a line of people were already waiting to cash in on the convenience of a mobile office.

The DMV’s first office on wheels used a telephone modem to connect with the department’s systems in Richmond when it hit the road in March 1990. The unit issued its first driver’s license to then Governor Doug Wilder, and the program has expanded significantly in the 27 years since.

“We now have five DMV 2 Go vehicles that visit nearly every corner of Virginia,” says DMV spokesperson Brandy Brubaker, who adds that the mobile office offers every service that the brick and mortar locations do. While the newest van cost about $135,000, at least one was given to the department by another organization that no longer needed it.

In Charlottesville, says mobile office manager Jessica Sanders, “We did a little bit of everything.” But the majority of the transactions she and her team processed were driver’s license, ID and vehicle registration renewals. She also administered a handful of learner’s permit tests. They can also issue road tests, though no one in Charlottesville asked for one.

But this wasn’t the first time a DMV 2 Go fleet has visited Charlottesville. When Commissioner of Revenue Todd Divers took office in 2014, he got the city on the schedule and a department vehicle has visited the city two or three times a year since then.

“Usually we have it set up next to City Hall in the alley by the Market Street Parking Garage,” Divers says. “In talking to some community groups, they thought it might reach more folks if we vary the location. It’s a really great service for folks who might have a hard time getting over to Pantops.”

Sanders says the van’s new location seems to be working. While her team usually processes between 20 and 30 transactions during each visit to Charlottesville, they had 43 at the supermarket.

“I was discussing the topic with a friend and Reid’s just popped up as a nice centrally located destination that would draw lots of foot traffic to the van,” Divers says. He heard that owner Kim Miller took an interest in the mobile unit because she sees many customers who don’t have proper identification.

The DMV has recently been under scrutiny for suspending Virginians’ licenses for nonpayment of fine and court costs, including for convictions that have nothing to do with driving.

Legal Aid Justice Center sued DMV Commissioner Richard Holcomb, contending that the license suspension is unconstitutional because it doesn’t take into account the driver’s ability to pay, gives no notice of the suspension, and it denies due process and equal protection to the poor.

A federal judge agreed the suspensions may be unconstitutional, but ruled he didn’t have jurisdictional authority to proceed with the case. Legal Aid filed a motion April 10 asking the court to vacate the dismissal.

Attorney Angela Ciolfi and the Legal Aid Justice Center did not respond to an interview request.

A DMV 2 Go schedule can be found at www.dmv.virginia.com.

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