ANNAPOLIS – Like hundreds of thousands of Maryland residents, when it came time for Yinka Animashaun to renew his car registration, he trudged to the Motor Vehicle Administration and stood in line.
He could have done the same job in minutes at the self- service Access Maryland terminal that is just around the corner from his restaurant in Beltway Plaza. But Animashaun did not realize that’s what the terminal was for.
He is not alone.
The state has invested $3.6 million for 11 Access Maryland terminals in malls around Maryland, yet less than 1 percent of MVA renewals are being processed through the big, gray machines that look like free-standing automatic tellers.
“Most people don’t pay it any mind and walk right by it,” said Beltway Plaza security officer Jerry Early, 27, of Laurel.
But the MVA is high on the machines, despite their relatively low use by motorists.
“We are pleased with the SSTs (self-service terminals) … in particular with its potential for future use,” said Anna Lucente-Hoffmann, a spokeswoman for the MVA. “They are in their infancy at this time.”
The MVA hopes to eventually buy 16 more of the kiosks and expand them to cover other state services, like issuing hunting and fishing licenses, boat or voter registration, and driver’s license renewals.
“Our goal is to have as many services as we can possibly fit into one of these,” said Karen Coyle, another MVA spokeswoman.
MVA Administrator Anne Ferro told members of a Senate budget committee recently, however, that the agency will not expand kiosk services before an analysis of the terminals is completed at the end of the year.
The self-service Access Maryland terminals were heralded by Gov. Parris Glendening in 1996 as the way to provide “government services near where people live and work.” The first terminal opened in Beltway Plaza in 1997.
The terminals let shoppers renew vehicle registration cards and stickers by logging in tag number and insurance information and then paying by check or credit card.
“It’s like using an ATM machine,” Ferro said.
Kiosk users who were surveyed by the state said they found the machines easy to use and would use them again, according to a report on the MVA’s proposed budget for fiscal 1999.
“We definitely expect to see increased use,” said Lucente- Hoffmann.
While the terminals can make the process of dealing with the MVA fast and convenient, however, only 16,000 people have used the machines since they first went into service last year.
Of the 1.6 million vehicle registrations that were renewed in Maryland last year, 1 percent were handled through the mall- based Access Maryland terminals and about 60 percent were done by mail. The rest were processed for people who came to MVA offices in person.
The state leases the 11 terminals from NCR Corp. for $720,000 a year and will own the kiosks at the end of five years.
Besides Beltway Plaza, the kiosks are found in: Owings Mills Mall; Cranberry Mall in Westminster; Laurel Centre in Laurel; the Centre at Salisbury; the Mall at Columbia; White Marsh Mall in Perry Hall; Martins Food Market in Hagerstown Commons; Giant Food at the Fox Run Shopping Center in Frederick; Kenilworth Plaza in Towson and City Place in Silver Spring.
The kiosk in Beltway Plaza is in the center of the mall, near Subway, Kay Jewelers and TCBY Treats. A Chevy Chase Bank ATM is across from the kiosk.
Early, the security guard, said he patrols the area near the Beltway Plaza kiosk Wednesday through Saturday. He said he sees only two to four people at the terminal a month.
“I’m always right here,” Early said. “The only time people come up to it is because they think it’s the ATM.”
TCBY Treats owner, Jae Hyun, 31, of Ellicott City, said he saw long lines at the kiosk when it first opened. Now, he said, he only sees people using the machine during the holidays.
But Hyun said that when it comes time for him to renew his registration, he will try the kiosk.
“It’s a convenient machine,” Hyun said.
Animashaun, 49, whose Island Cafe is just around the corner from the kiosk, said he would use the machine next time, now that he knows he can.
“If I go [in the mall] it’s probably faster and I save money,” Animashaun said.