KAILUA-KONA — The last time Travis Marcoux went to renew his auto registration at the West Hawaii Civic Center, he waited in line three hours.
On Monday at a digital kiosk tucked beside a Redbox video rental machine inside the Henry Street Safeway in Kailua-Kona, Kasia Mayfield renewed her vehicle registration in less than three minutes.
Mayfield was actually giddy with laughter at the convenience of it all. And why wouldn’t she be? Driving back and forth from Ocean View to get to the Department of Motor Vehicles offices in Kailua-Kona isn’t even the longest part of the trip.
“There’s always a line and you have to take a number,” she said. “This was just in and out.”
The DMV Now kiosk, as it’s known, is one of two planned for Hawaii Island. The other is set for installation today inside the Makaala Street Safeway location in Hilo.
Similar kiosks also are being installed in Safeway stores throughout Honolulu. Similar machines have been used in California for multiple years.
Naomi O’Dell, chief of the county’s Vehicle Registration and Licensing Division, said the kiosks are part of a statewide initiative that’s been in the works since last year.
“It’s to bring down our wait times and have less people come into our offices,” O’Dell said.
The DMV branch at the West Hawaii Civic Center has for months hung a sign warning drivers to expect wait times of two to five hours for anything to do with driver’s licenses. The kiosks might go a long way toward freeing up DMV employees to process licensing concerns more quickly by significantly reducing the registration renewal load.
And the benefits to drivers go almost without saying.
“It’s more for the convenience of people because Safeway is open seven days a week and their hours are a lot longer than ours, so it affords the general public more time to go get their registration renewal,” O’Dell said.
The first kiosk in Hawaii was installed at the Kona Safeway late last week, which is open 24 hours a day.
“We kind of got the jump on everyone in Kona because our cell reception is very bad at the West Hawaii Civic Center, so it was difficult to test the unit there,” O’Dell explained.
All a person needs to use the DMV Now kiosks is his or her old registration document and license plate number. Machines print a new registration document, complete with the accompanying sticker, on site. Nothing is sent through the postal service.
Word of the new kiosks hasn’t spread far yet, but everyone who has been introduced to the concept appears to have met it with delight.
Mayfield heard about it on the Kona Moms Facebook Page. Marcoux heard about it while returning a movie to a vending machine adjacent to the kiosk, his face turning to an expression of shock when he realized what the kiosk was.
“I’m very interested,” he said. “I’d like to give it a try.”
Costs of using the kiosks are not prohibitive, for the customer or the county. There is a $3 convenience fee, which O’Dell said will allow the machine to pay for itself in every way — from purchase and installation to repair.
Teena Massingill, director of corporate public affairs and diversity at Safeway, said the initiative is a pilot project in Hawaii and the stores aren’t charging the state or counties to place machines at participating locations.
“Our customers appreciate this convenience,” Massingill wrote in an email. “Rather than make a special trip to a county office, customers can renew their tags while they shop.”
The kiosks only accept credit and debit cards, meaning there’s an accompanying fee for the transaction. Other than that and the convenience fee, the price of vehicle registration is the same as it would be at the DMV.
Mayfield, who has lived on the island 15 years, said she’ll never go back to the DMV to renew her registration again.
“If it’s just registration, you definitely have to do this,” she said.
Email Max Dible at email@example.com.