In a move that could herald a new chapter in Southern California's storied car culture, the state Department of Motor Vehicles will follow the trail blazed by banks and fast-food franchises by opening its first drive-up window in Van Nuys in September.
"It's innovative, it's a new way of doing business, it relieves congestion and it provides the people of California with a time-saver," said Malcolm Smith, DMV regional manager for the Los Angeles County area who proposed the idea and will oversee its implementation.
The agency plans to construct a bullet-proof, air-conditioned, state-of-the-art kiosk in the parking lot next to its often-crowded Van Nuys office at Kester Avenue and Vanowen Street. It will serve as a prototype for the pilot project which, if successful, could be implemented statewide.
Motorists will be able to obtain registration renewals, driver's license test manuals and answers to questions without leaving their cars. They will still have to venture inside the office to take written license tests and apply for new registrations.
Nearly 200 drivers are expected to use the new service daily, Smith said. It is intended to decrease congestion in the parking lot and the office and cut down on customers' time at the facility.
"It's kind of radical but it makes a lot of sense," said Smith, a 25-year DMV veteran. "It's a win-win (situation) as I see it."
The drive-up window at the 8-by-12-foot kiosk will be open during regular DMV office hours of 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. each weekday except Thursday, when closing time is 6:30 p.m. If the line becomes longer than five cars, a second clerk will be dispatched to approach the cars and answer questions or hand out forms.
Cost of the project, including design, preparation of the site and construction of the kiosk, is expected to be less than $35,000, said DMV spokesman William N. Gengler.
Smith, who oversees a region that includes 17 offices throughout Los Angeles, Glendale, Santa Monica and the San Gabriel Valley, said he also plans to open a walk-up window at the crowded Hollywood office to reduce the number of people inside the facility.
But it is the drive-up innovation that he hopes will be his legacy when he retires at the end of September.
"My gut feeling is that this is going to work," said Smith, 63.
He said DMV Director A. A. (Del) Pierce told him: "If this doesn't work, you're going to be selling videos or fried chicken out of that booth."