Question: I know I am not the only one having trouble getting an appointment to renew my driver’s license, but I noticed something different when I tried to log onto AlohaQ. Now it won’t even let you try to make an appointment unless your license expires within three months. I thought we could renew six months out. What’s going on?
Answer: As you’ve learned, Honolulu County’s Department of Customer Services is limiting online reservations for Oahu residents who need to renew their state ID or Hawaii driver’s license to those whose credentials expire in three months or less. You are correct that Hawaii law allows a person to renew up to six months before expiration. However, a shorter time frame for the online reservation system is needed to clear the backlog of customers with urgent needs, Nola Miyasaki, the department’s new director, told Kokua Line on Tuesday. She said this is allowed under emergency proclamations governing pandemic-era life on Oahu.
While the AlohaQ.org site previously encouraged people not to renew their state ID or driver’s license more than three months prior to expiration, the site now has an “expiration checker” that requires the person to enter their name, birth date and license or ID number to verify they are within the new window to make an appointment.
“We are trying to manage and prioritize people whose licenses and IDs are expiring the soonest, within three months. We’ve had a lot of situations where people sign up very far in advance for an appointment but people whose (credentials) are expiring sooner can’t get an appointment,” she said, adding that she’s also striving to maximize the number of appointments added to the online reservation system.
Miyasaki, a lawyer who most recently served as chief development officer of the Rehab Hospital of the Pacific Foundation and led what is now called the Hawaii Technology Development Corp. 20 years ago, said improving access to appointments for driver’s licenses, state IDs and motor vehicle transactions and making sure that residents can also reach the city by phone are among her immediate priorities for one of Honolulu County’s busiest departments.
Along with the changes to AlohaQ, she said the department would soon double or triple the number of staff assigned to answer the phones and would install a voicemail system for those calls that are not picked up. These efforts involve redeploying staff within the 300-employee department, not making new hires, she said.
The expanded phone service is being tested this week, she said, adding that the public should notice the improvements next week. The phone numbers remain the same: 768-9100 for questions related to driver’s licenses and state IDs and 768-4325 for questions about motor vehicle transactions. Much information also is available online, at honolulu.gov/csd.
Miyasaki said she was aware that getting through by phone and making timely appointments online have been “a pain point for the public. It’s my highest priority to work through these issues that have really rolled over from last year” as the pandemic disrupted operations at driver’s license centers and satellite city halls.
Appointments are required for all in-person services at these facilities. There are no walk-ins. While some residents have trouble getting an appointment via the AlohaQ reservation systems, others manage to make multiple appointments — and then don’t show up, Miyasaki said. More than 20% of appointments are no-shows, she said, adding that there have been instances of people booking duplicate or even triplicate reservations.
She said the department is working on a technical solution that would eliminate a person’s ability to have more than one appointment on AlohaQ at a time. We’ll follow up for more details on that technical solution, to avoid unintended consequences, such as the cancellation of appointments for different family members using the same cellphone.
Write to Kokua Line at Honolulu Star-Advertiser, 7 Waterfront Plaza, Suite 210, 500 Ala Moana Blvd., Honolulu 96813; call 529-4773; fax 529-4750; or email email@example.com.