HOUSTON – Walking into the DPS office to get your driver’s license or take a driving test.
Before you even go inside, you know what’s going to happen, what it is going to be like.
Like going to the dentist for a root canal.
Like squatting on your knees, scrubbing out the toilet bowl.
Like crawling through rush-hour traffic in Houston on a Monday morning.
No matter what you are going there for, you know you are in for a big wait.
“I think it’s utterly miserable,” one man said.
“It’s total chaos in there,” another man said.
“I have been waiting for four hours,” another man said while holding a wilted piece of paper.
That paper is his number in line, No. 8076.
But the Texas Department of Public Safety said there is a better, faster, much faster, way to get through all of this.
They said you can avoid standing in long lines by getting in line online via your computer or smartphone.
You register online and get an appointment time to show up at the DPS office.
Then you are supposed to show up at least 10 minutes before that time and save yourself a mountain of time, hours perhaps, waiting in line.
But does it really work? Or is it just a sham to pacify the unruly public, folks like you and me?
Channel 2 Investigates decided to put this system to the test.
Three KPRC employees: Investigative Reporter Bill Spencer, producer Erica Young and Director of Technology Edgar Zavala tried the system.
Step one, go to the Texas Department Of Public Safety website and click on driver's licenses.
Then, click on the section that says “how can we help.”
Next, click on “get in line at your local office online.”
Now you get to pick from a whole list of different DPS office locations.
Spencer decided to go with the Houston-Gessner Mega Center.
Next, enter a cell phone number that can receive texts.
Then, hit the button that says “yes, put me in line.”
When Spencer did it at 11 a.m. in the morning, he immediately got a screen message that said, “no service times available.”
In fact, he tried three different DPS locations and got the same message at every one of them.
Now, it’s Young’s turn.
Young picked three other locations, all different from mine and she got the very same message.
So, Zavala gave it a shot.
Zavala has used the system several times in the past, so he is familiar with it.
He used it to help several of his children get their licenses.
After four different attempts at four different offices, he failed to get in line online as well.
It’s important to note that the three of us did not go online until 11:30 in the morning.
Perhaps, we all just waited too late in the day to try to use this time-saving system.
So we will try it another day, another way.
The next day, former KPRC intern Chis Talley and Spencer tried two different offices.
We attempted to “get in line online” at 8 a.m., hours earlier than the last time.
Spencer went with the Spring Mega Center and Talley went with the Houston Southeast Mega Center.
Both attempts were successful.
Spencer got an appointment at 10:20 that morning, Talley got an appointment at 2:08 in the afternoon.
When Spencer arrived at the Spring DPS office, the lines were long and out the door, spilling onto the sidewalk out front.
Still, Spencer got through that line and got inside the office in just 20 minutes.
Once inside, Spencer waited for one hour and his number was called.
In the end, Spencer spent a total of one hour and 30 minutes at the DPS office, start to finish, and he got his driver’s license renewed without any issues.
At the Houston Southeast office, Talley did far better than Spencer. He had his number called just two minutes after his scheduled time of 2:08.
The lesson learned is simple: The get in line online system does work, but you have to log on and try to get in line online as early as possible.
The earliest you can try to get in the system is at 7 a.m. Monday through Friday.
As the test proves, you should get registered in line on the computer sometime between 7 a.m. and 10 a.m. for the best result.
If you are unable to get in line online at the office of your choice, don’t give up, try several other offices while you are on the website.
Finally, if you do decide to go down to the DPS office and stand in line in person, go early.
The offices open at 7:30 a.m., but many of the people we met over the two days we spent shooting the story told us they showed up to get in line as early as 6 a.m.
To help you save even more time, we have created a special interactive map below that shows the official average wait times at different offices all over the Houston Metro area.
This map will give you information on which offices have the shortest wait times and which ones have the longest wait times.
Keep in mind, wait times start when you actually get inside the building and use the kiosk to get your wait number.
These wait times do not take into account the amount of time you will have to wait outside, waiting to get to that kiosk to sign in and get your number.
Lastly, the DPS says the busiest days at the DPS centers tend to be Mondays and Fridays.