An hour and a half before the Kitchener Drive Test office opens, Gerardo Betancour is standing outside the door.

Dressed in a warm hoodie, he waits patiently. The temperature is just 4 C.

He's here to write his G1 driver's licence test.

Gerardo Betancour

Gerardo Betancour started waiting in line outside the Drive Test office in Kitchener at 7 a.m. Friday. (Kate Bueckert/CBC)

He's not alone for long – soon, others start to form a line behind him.

Betancour, who took the bus from his Kitchener home to the office, says he's read reviews online about the Drive Test office and suggestions to get there early.

"I wanted to take the test today. I know that a friend of mine came last week and he arrived at 9 a.m. and he left at 5 p.m.," Betancour says, adding he hopes he'll be done by noon.

"It shouldn't be that long because it's a short test."

Waiting for hours

Bentacour's story is not an uncommon one for those who have had to go to Drive Test offices across the province.

On a Facebook page for the Kitchener office, people have left reviews like, "This place is a joke," and, "ridiculous that there is only one location in the region. Plan to use your entire day waiting to take a G1 test."

Conestoga College student Noah Benson, 19, had a little extra time on his hands because of the ongoing college faculty strike, so he went into the office to get his G1 on Oct. 17.

He also arrived shortly before the office opened but was at the back of a long line.

People scheduled for 8:30 a.m. road tests were allowed in first, then the rest of the people filed in and took a number.

"I was seated there for probably close to two hours before I ended up going in to take the test," Benson told CBC News, although said he was aware he would have to wait.

'It's unacceptable'

It's stories like these that Kitchener-Conestoga MPP Michael Harris hears on a near daily basis from his constituents.

Harris, who is also the Progressive Conservative transportation critic, shook his head as he looked at the lineup forming outside the Drive Test office Friday morning, Betancour at the front of it.

"You'd think you're out front of a Best Buy waiting to get the newest Xbox and people have camped overnight. But no. We're here to actually get people their license," he said. "It's unacceptable the wait times that people have had to endure."

Harris has launched a petition calling on the government to do more to address the wait times. He has also raised the issue at Queen's Park.

There's supposed to be a 20 minute maximum wait time for most people who go to the office, but instead, people are having to take a full day off work to write or do road tests, he said.

The solution is more staffing and more Drive Test centres, Harris said.

And if the centres - which are run by a contractor for the government - can't meet demand, they should be fined for not fulfilling their end of the contract, he added.

Drive Test office wait outside before opening

The first person waiting in this line at the Drive Test office in Kitchener arrived at 7 a.m. Friday to write his G1 test. He hoped to be done by noon. (Kate Bueckert/CBC)

Changes being made

Ontario's Transportation Minister Steven Del Duca admitted there is a problem.

"Frankly, I think it's unacceptable that some people are waiting for extended periods of time," he said in a statement sent to CBC News.

Del Duca said the province has introduced a few measures to ease wait times including:

  • Saturday hours in Kitchener, London, Hamilton, Toronto and Ottawa.
  • Increased staffing.
  • New self-serve technologies.

He added they are also considering more ways to reduce wait times, including extending office hours, offering more services online, pre-scheduling complex transactions and creating drop boxes for things like medical forms.

Harris said the changes made aren't enough and the government needs to do more.

"We've been hearing about these challenges for the last year, maybe more," he said. "We're getting to a point where we're tired of hearing a potential update is coming. We need to fix the problem."