WALLINGTON, N.J. (CBSNewYork) – New Jersey’s Motor Vehicle Commission resumed in-person services this week, and thousands of drivers lined up outside its offices.
After waiting for hours Tuesday and Wednesday, many were told to come back and do it all again.
Because of social distancing guidelines, the MVC is only allowing 20 people inside at a time and capping appointments at 150 for the day.
Most offices only have two-thirds of their staff.
“Why aren’t they open 24 hours? They need to hire more people,” Jessica Juhrden, of Nutley, told CBS2’s John Dias. “It’s ridiculous.”
“I think there definitely needs some improvement, especially after waiting for about three months,” Deshawn Walker, of Passaic, said.
Some drivers even started lining up overnight in hopes of securing a spot.
“I came here yesterday at 5:30 in the morning, waited a whole day,” one man said outside the office in Lodi. “There’s no organization here.”
On June 5, MVC Chief Administrator B. Sue Fulton said, “In order to limit crowds and speed services during the phased reopening, some agencies have been designated as licensing centers and some as vehicle centers.”
That clearly didn’t work.
In Wallington, the first person waited in line for nearly 18 hours before the doors opened at 8 a.m. Wednesday.
“I got here about 3:30 in the afternoon,” said Ronny Gonzalez, of Clifton.
“I spent about 16 hours here so I could register my motorcycle,” Alan Nunez said.
“I’ve been here since yesterday,” another man said.
“They had so much time to prepare and it was like a disaster,” one woman said.
People slept in cars, chairs and on the ground. Once the line spilled onto the sidewalk around 6 a.m., some were instructed to just go home.
Watch John Dias’ report —
The Lakewood office also reached capacity before it opened.
“You’re not going to go inside. I guarantee you that,” a police officer told the crowd.
Dozens of people decided to stay, like Katerina Robles and her boyfriend.
“I’m staying. He has a contracting company. We can’t work if we don’t have the vans registered and ready to go,” she said. “It’s sad that the DMV works this way.”
The office manager handed out 150 vouchers to secure drivers’ spots inside Wednesday – 20 more than on Tuesday.
One man was elated to get the last one.
“We’re going to see Willy Wonka,” he said.
Steve Fulton waited all day Tuesday in Springfield and was told to leave before vouchers were handed out.
“It’s just so unfair, and I got up at 2 o’clock in the morning to get here just like all these other people,” he said.
CBS2 demanded answers as to how they will handle the crowd Thursday and those already waiting in line for a spot.
“I can’t answer that question,” said the office manager. “We’re trying to do the best we can.”
Registrations, licenses and inspections that expired between March and May have been given extension until July 31, and Gov. Phil Murphy says people can avoid the lines by going online.
However, everyone Dias spoke with said they had to do this in-person.
“You can’t get new registrations, license plates, New Jersey license, because I am coming from New York,” John Cruz, of Englewood, said.
Many people wondered why the MVC hasn’t extended its hours. On most days, it closes at 4:30 p.m.
The governor is asking people not to sleep outside overnight, but he’s not apologizing or offering any alternatives.
“I think the appointment only is a good idea, but they all pale, and I’ll make sure I feed that back in, they all pale by fact that we’re going to add a day, re-unfurlough workers,” Murphy said Wednesday.
CBS2’s Lisa Rozner requested an interview through an MVC spokesperson, who said the chief administrator was too busy to talk Wednesday.
The spokesperson said he was not authorized to answer why the agency can’t extend hours or divvy up days by the first letter of last names. He also couldn’t answer if each MVC manager at each location is being directed to hand out tickets for people they couldn’t serve that day.
Watch Jessica Layton’s report —
Wednesday night, there was a line of people camping out on the doorstep of the MVC in Springfield.
“They’re not prepared. Like, it’s crazy,” Belleville resident Leo Escobar told CBS2’s Jessica Layton.
Escobar got to the office at 3:40 p.m. Wednesday to ensure he’d be the first inside Thursday to register his new motorcycle.
“They took, like, 200 people today and that’s it? I mean, people need this,” he said.
“There was no system in place whatsoever, no organization,” Matt Fisher, of Morristown, said.
With so much confusion and even fighting, Fisher took matters into his own hands at the office in Randolph overnight.
“We are all in this together, we can’t let what happened yesterday happen again,” he said. “And we literally started numbering everybody that was there, at which point, by about 3 a.m., we were probably up well north of 100.”
His daughter is now smiling with a license in hand.
But Republican Assembly Leader Jon Bramnick says it’s the Murphy administration that needs to get control.
“They just did a bad job,” he said. “Open seven days a week, 12 hours a day … It would show respect for residents.”
The agency will be open Saturdays beginning next week, but that’s not enough, say thousands of New Jersey drivers who are beat down and simply want to be in good standing when they’re on the road.
“That doesn’t solve anything. They’re not ready for this, they don’t care,” Escobar said.