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MVC separation of licensing, vehicle centers may be permanent

The Motor Vehicle Commission agency in Raritan Township on June 13, 2020. (Michael Symons/Townsquare Media NJ)
The Motor Vehicle Commission agency in Raritan Township on June 13, 2020. (Michael Symons/Townsquare Media NJ)

Some changes brought on by COVID-19 could outlast the pandemic – working from home, telehealth, outdoor dining, cocktails to go. The separation of Motor Vehicle Commission agencies into licensing and vehicle centers may join that list.

When agencies reopened in July, after having been closed since March, they had been divided into 23 licensing centers and 16 vehicle centers. MVC chief administrator Sue Fulton said it has had a positive impact beyond social distancing.

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“Right now, in most locations, what we’re seeing is an increase in efficiency – like, we’re seeting better numbers and faster transactions,” she said. “So where that makes sense, where keeping them separate helps us to serve people faster and get them through, we’re probably going to request to keep that.”

Even if that’s the case, Fulton said it would probably not stick around statewide.

“There are certainly some locations that are further, that are more isolated, where we would look to return to full service. But we can’t do it until we’re through COVID,” Fulton said at an Assembly Budget Committee hearing last week.

There are currently no vehicle centers in the state’s four southernmost counties – Atlantic, Cape May, Cumberland and Salem, the combined home of nearly 570,000 people. Conversely, in northwest New Jersey, the closest licensing centers to Sussex and Warren counties are in Randolph and Flemington.

Fulton said it’s not known how long licensing and vehicles centers will remain separate.

“We have to keep them separate as long as we’re required to do social distancing indoors,” Fulton said. “So when does that end? When is the COVID crisis over?”

Fulton said a lot of factors went into sorting agencies into licensing or vehicle centers: Do they do already do driver testing? Are they by an inspection station? Do people arrive there by mass transit needing a license?

“Certainly, it’s not perfect. Certainly, people are traveling a little more,” Fulton said. “But the key thing is getting that information out.”

Assemblywoman Verlina Reynolds-Jackson, D-Mercer, said Trenton has a lot of people who are on foot – but the capital’s agency is now a vehicle center.

“Just think about people and barriers,” Reynolds-Jackson said. “And sometimes in our decision making, we create barriers to stop people from coming in, and those barriers often times hinder them and make it more difficult.”

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