Limit to two transactions per customer
Reacting to an overwhelming number of people who showed up for the Niagara County Department of Motor Vehicles’ first walk-in hours since the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic, Niagara County Clerk Joseph A. Jastrzemski said future walk-in hours would be limited to Niagara County residents only, with a limit of two transactions per visit.
“We attempted to bring a sense of normalcy back to our operations by doing one day of walk-ins at each of our three DMV office and, to be candid, it didn’t go particularly well,” he said. “The number of people coming from communities that are two and three hours away to process multiple transactions is something we did not anticipate. It created a long lines and long wait times.”
Jastrzemski said people came from as far away as Syracuse to process their transactions and these were not standard renewals, but more complicated matters such as lapsed insurance, stolen plates and so on.
“We still think booking appointments, using our drop-boxes and doing transactions online are the best way to complete your DMV business, but we wanted to create the more traditional avenue with walk-in hours for those who are more comfortable with that or maybe needed extra direction,” Jastrzemski said. “But with the vast majority of other counties in New York state only doing appointments, we appeared to become the clearinghouse for people all across upstate New York. That can’t continue.”
Jastrzemski said DMV staff will now turn away anyone who is not a Niagara County resident during the walk-in hours, even if they drove several hours to get here.
“With lines like we had this week, we cannot ensure proper social distancing, and that is particularly problematic at a time when the number of COVID cases are increasing,” he said. “We are going to see if this new policy improves things this week. If not, we will return to appointments only.”
Jastrzemski reminded the public the North Tonawanda DMV office will accept walk-ins on Tuesdays; Niagara Falls DMV on Wednesdays; and Lockport DMV on Thursdays. Patrons on walk-in days need to be in line by 11:30 a.m. to be served before the office closes for lunch from 12:30 to 1:30, and then before 4 p.m. to be served before the office closes for the day. Everyone must wear a mask and bring their own pen.