Do you have a driver's license? Do you drive at DFW International Airport? Do you get annoyed by certain driving pet peeves in Texas?
Today, The Watchdog turns on the high beams to focus on two annoyances I keep hearing about from bellyaching readers.
Why is DFW's passenger pickup charge so ridiculous? And why does it now take up to six hours to get service at Texas Department of Public Safety driver's license centers?
Airport pass-through fee
From my mailbag:
"Dave, could you please explain to me why it cost $2 to pick up or drop off a passenger at DFW Airport?... Like why not a cell-phone loitering lot?" — Ron C.
"It used to be $2 for entry/exit at the airport for 0-30 minutes. Now they have added a category to catch most drop-offs. Zero to eight minutes is now $4, while 8-30 minutes remains at $2. Heck, the $4 is even more than the 30 minutes to 2 hour rate of $3. Just seems like a blatant money grab to me." — Wade L.
"I contacted DFW guest relations and was told that they hear this complaint all the time. ... If you are at the airport for any reason from 0-8 minutes, it's $4. Now Dave, isn't this kind of ridiculous?" — Carla S.
"If I zip in the north entry and drop my wife off, and I do it in less than eight minutes, they charge me $4, even if I exit the north exit, too. If I take between 8 and 30 minutes to do this, I'm only charged $2. But if I stay there two hours, I'm only charged $3. I realize this is small potatoes, but it's wrong to charge people to drop others off at DFW. It's one of those taxes we pay whereby we have no choice. They got us." — Greg H.
See what smart readers The Watchdog has? They gather the facts, then ask the tough questions. All they want are answers. Turns out The Watchdog can offer that, plus the ultimate airport driving tip.
But first, The Watchdog believes confusion comes from the way we are used to pricing. Short time costs less. The more time goes by, the higher the bill.
Not at the airport. Once you pass through a toll booth, the pricing starts at $4, then as time passes, drops to $2. Then the cost goes up to $3 before it jumps to the $9 level. It's up, down, up like an airplane.
Airport spokeswoman Cynthia Vega (yes, that Cynthia Vega formerly of WFAA-TV) explains that the money raised goes to pay to maintain airport roads.
"The reason for charging more for those who do the zero to eight minutes is because, typically, they're driving-through commuters," Vega says.
About 5,000 drivers a day use the airport as a shortcut, and they are now paying more for the privilege.
But other drivers are caught in the net, too. You can't drive free into the airport. Everybody pays something.
Maybe you've noticed the line of drivers on the shoulder outside of the toll booths. They're stalling for time. They don't want to park inside, and they don't want to pay to wait.
The Watchdog talked to some waiting drivers last week, yards away from the toll booths. They're Uber and Lyft drivers, limo drivers and other drivers who scamper when the cops come along. They told me they're trying to avoid paying extra dollars by going in too late or too early before their pickups arrive.
A new cellphone lot will be finished by year's end near the north entry. Still, it'll cost money to wait inside.
Carla S. wrote me, "I realize that this may sound petty to you, but it's the principle of the matter."
It's not petty. The airport is a public entity, but you can't drive in for a moment without getting tagged for some George Washingtons. The system doesn't know the difference between a pass-through commuter or someone picking up a passenger.
So what's the tip? Start timing your visit. Don't leave the airport in under eight minutes because that'll cost you an extra $2. Eight to 30 minutes is what you want.
Greg H. writes, "It might be worth telling consumers that they can save $$$ by taking more time when they drop off passengers."
Driver's license delays
Is Texas ready for the millions of newcomers expected to move here in the next decade? Not if you judge by the crisis in the state's clogged driver's license centers.
You might remember that the creation of mega centers several years ago knocked the wait for service down to 15 minutes, an amazing improvement from when the old license centers showed movies to those waiting in line. Now you can make online appointments before you come in. Most don't seem to know that.
The Watchdog recently visited the mega centers in Fort Worth and Garland, and I was surprised to learn wait times are often two to three hours. There were few empty seats in the waiting area.
Faced with big driver's license budget cuts, DPS tried to cut back the hours by shaving 90 minutes off each day by opening later and closing earlier. But after complaints from state lawmakers, Gov. Greg Abbott ordered DPS to extend its hours, not cut back.
Michael M. says he waited from 1 to 6:15 p.m. for a license renewal. (An in-person visit is required every 12 years.) Some quit waiting while others were turned away, he tells me.
"If this were an airline, they would be fined for this type of overbooking," he says.
Watchdog tip: The only way to avoid this mess is to make an online appointment at dps.texas.gov. DPS says phone appointments are available, too.
Best bet: Online, search for the "Get In Line Online" option. Bring a newspaper to read while you're waiting, OK?
Staff writer Marina Trahan Martinez contributed to this report.
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Write: Dave Lieber, P.O. Box 655237, Dallas, TX 75265