DENVER -- Seeing people waiting in line outside the DMV isn't anything new. But at Denver County's motor vehicle offices, people are being kept outside as if pandemic restrictions were still in place.
Yassaman Somen waited outside under some shade for more than an hour and a half Monday at the Northeast Branch to get plates for the used car she just bought.
"In the car, it's too hot. As long as I'm in the shade, it's good. As long as the weather's nice, I'm OK," she said. "I'm sure once it gets cold, it's not going to be doable."
Pre-pandemic, Somen would've been able to wait inside. But when the coronavirus first began spreading last year, Denver County had to act fast.
"We fairly quickly set up a process that allowed people to check in outside ... using their phone and via text message," Kiki Turner, deputy director of communications and public affairs for the City and County of Denver's Department of Finance, said Monday.
First, you'd get a text confirming you were checked in. Then, depending on how long the wait time was, you'd get a second text, allowing to you come inside the office.
This temporary process aimed at keeping people safe in the pandemic is now permanent. You can no longer wait inside while waiting for your number to be called.
"We're serving around 1,300-1,600 people a day with this process. For the time being, we're sticking with it, and we're going to continue to see if it's a process that's working best for our residents," Turner said.
But there are some kinks that still need to be worked out, according to customer Shaneque Parker. She, too, had to wait more than an hour and a half to get some temporary plates.
"My phone did die, so I wasn't sure if they texted me back or not. I had to come in and check, which is another problem," Shaneque Parker said. "No choice but to get it done."
The worst part, Parker says, is if you can't make it back to the DMV in time when you get the second text telling you to come in. You have a five-minute window, and you get skipped if you're not there.
"Most people aren't waiting in their cars," she said.
If the county is planning to stick with this plan, Somen says, it should be more accommodating to those who don't want to wait in their cars.
"Some kind of a shade or, you know, let them be able to sit on those benches or just something," she said.
According to Turner, expect the wait times to go down as the county hires more people.
"New employees are currently being trained and will soon join staff at branch offices. Our average current transaction time once a resident is at a window is 7 minutes or less, and these new employees will continue to improve customer wait times," Turner said.
Currently, Denver County's Motor Vehicle Division has an 11% vacancy rate, down from 26%.