After New Jersey Motor Vehicle Commission agency offices reopened in early July following the three and a half month pandemic shutdown, the situation immediately became chaotic.

Huge crowds overwhelmed many facilities, people were camping out overnight, and fights were breaking out among customers forced to wait in sweltering 90-degree heat.

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Within days, to help restore order and ease wait times, Gov. Phil Murphy announced that MVC documents that had expired between mid-March and the end of May had been extended to Sept. 30, and documents expiring between June and the end of August would be extended to the end of this year.

The MVC also instituted a ticket system where individuals lining up for in-person service can give their cell phone number so they can leave the line and get a text message a short time before they need to return.

But in some locations the long lines continue to form every morning. New Jerseyans are showing up in the middle of the night to get on line, afraid that if they don’t they will not otherwise be able to complete their MVC business.

MVC Chief Administrator Sue Fulton said they’re still working on ways to communicate with residents that at most agency offices they can get a ticket, give their number and get a text to return if they show up between 8 and 9 a.m. and as late as 1 p.m.

"The reality is no matter how fast we process people at 8 a.m., if you arrive at midnight you are going to wait for eight hours outside because we’re not open," she said. "I can’t help you at midnight.”

She noted because we are at the end of September, lines have been longer but they’re expected to become more manageable by next week. The busiest agencies remain Newark, Wayne, Rahway and South Plainfield.

She pointed out there are still lines because people don’t want to leave because they don’t trust the texting process the MVC has set up. Also, hundreds of people can no longer sit inside an agency office the way they used to before the pandemic.

Fulton stressed most MVC documents can be renewed online.

“The only exceptions are those governed by federal regulations like commercial driver’s licenses or temporary visas and new driver’s licenses," she said, adding that "a record number of used car sales that require an in-person visit" has also contributed to the waits.

The U.S. Department of Homeland Security has extended the Real ID deadline for a year, which means you won’t need a Real ID driver’s license (or a passport) to get on a domestic commercial flight until the end of October 2021.

“We are very conscious that we need to be prepared to manage Real ID’s over this next year,” Fulton said.

She pointed out the MVC is doing between 250,000 and 300,000 transactions a week, which is more than this time last year.

Fulton said she expects people to continue to complain about the MVC on social media, because that’s what some people do.

“Yes, people will attack me, if they’re attacking me and they’re not attacking other members of Motor Vehicle. That’s why I’m in this job,” she said. “I just can’t say enough about the Motor Vehicle team, the people who work for me.”

She added part of her job is to take the hit from people upset about standing in a long lines, even if they don’t really need to be standing in line.

“And it’s my job to figure out if they’re not going to read the paper or the website or social media, I’ve got to figure out how to get to those people," she said.

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