CAPITAL REGION - Word is spreading that in less than a year, everyone in New York state is going to need to have an enhanced driver's license or identification card if they don't want to drive or take the train on their next trip to Denver.
More people are showing up at the state Department of Motor Vehicles offices run by the counties looking for the enhanced license or REAL ID card -- and many are having to return because they don't have the right documents the first time they visit the DMV.
"It is a lot of business, which is driving up wait times and drivng up frustration levels," said Schenectady County Clerk Cara Ackerley.
Ackerley is launching an effort to get into the community and explain the REAL ID system to people, so they're better prepared before they come to a DMV office like the State Street Schenectady office.
"We can look at people's documents and say if they're the right ones," she said.
If people don't get an enhanced license or ID by next Oct. 1 and only have a standard drivers' license, they will no longer be able to board a domestic flight, as they can now with a standard license. Also off limits without the right ID as of October will be military basis and all federal buildings, from courthouses to offices.
It's all part of a federal mandate to enhance security.
The state and federal government ramped up promotion around the one-year anniversary, and county clerk's offices report their Department of Motor Vehicles offices are seeing a high percentage of applications for enhances licenses or non-license REAL ID cards.
"In our office, every day we do between 80 or 90, and yesterday for the first time we did over 100, we did 106," Ackerley said on Friday. "(Applications) are most certainly climbing."
An enhanced driver's license, which the state has been issuing on an optional basis since 2008, meets the federal ID requirement. The REAL ID is a different document than a driver's license, but requires the same increased proofs of identity as an enhanced license.
Here's what people need to plan on bringing: proof of identity, proof of legal residence, two proofs of New York residency, their social security card or other proof of their SSI number, and their current driver's license, if they have one.
The REAL ID requirement isn't part of any new law, but traces back to a 2005 federal law intended to inhibit terrorists' ability to evade detection by using fraudulent identification, one of the recommendations of a commission established after the 9/11 terrorist attacks.
The Transportation Security Administration will be enforcing the new requirements at the screening stations at all airports, and it issued a remind earlier this month that people have only another year to get the new license or ID.
Signs are posted nationwide at airports to remind people about the coming requirement. In addition to REAL ID, passengers at the boarding gate may also present a valid passport, federal government identification or U.S. military ID.
"Just as you plan your vacations ahead of time, plan to get a REAL ID now so you can be ready when the new law takes effect," state Department of Motor Vehicles Commissioner Mark J.F. Schroeder said.
Ackerley said county clerk's offices across the state are seeing the same issues with people arriving at DMV offices without the right documents or require needed time-consuming explanations of why a third category of license, an "enhanced" license might be a good idea, even though it costs $30 more. The offices also deal with frequent state computer outages, she noted, that complicate processing and dealing with the public.
The cost of a REAL ID is the same as for a standard license, $64.50. There are no plans for the state to stop offering standard licenses.
The upgrade isn't something that can be done online, like the renewal of a standard license and many vehicle registrations. Applicants must come to a DMV office with their documents, and will also need to have a new photo taken.
DMV recommends customers check the DMV's online document guide for what they should bring, including proof of residency and proof of their full, legal name.
The Schenectady County meetings to explain the new requirements will start on Oct. 21 at the Glenville Public Library, and meetings will then be held in every municipalitity in the county, Ackerley said. Those who attend and have the right documents will get a certificate that will allow them to go to the head of line when they go to the DMV office, she said.
The complete list of sessions this fall are listed at the end of this story.
"If those meetings are a success, my hope is to hold sessions in high schools," Ackerley said. "When those seniors become college students, they won't be able to fly home for Thanksgiving if they don't have the right ID."
Upcoming schedule of Schenectady County office DMV-sponsored REAL ID informational sessions:
Glenville Public Library, Monday, Oct. 21, 5:30-7:30 p.m.
20 Glenridge Road
Rotterdam Public Library, Wednesday, Oct. 23, 5 p.m. to 7 p.m.
1100 North Wescott St.
Karen B. Johnson Library, Monday, Oct. 28, 5 p.m. to 7 p.m.
99 Clinton St., Schenectady
Duanesburg Town Court, Tuesday, Oct. 29, 5 p.m. to 7 p.m.
5853 Western Turnpike
Niskayuna Public Library, Wednesday, Nov. 6, 5 p.m. to 7 p.m.
2400 Nott St. East
Princetown Town Hall, Monday, Nov. 18, 5 p.m. to 7 p.m.
165 Princetown Plaza
Mont Pleasant Branch Library, Thursday, Nov. 21, 5 p.m. to 7 p.m.
1036 Crane St., Schenectady
Phyllis Bornt Branch Library, Tuesday, Nov. 26, 5 p.m. to 7 p.m.
948 State St., Schenectady
Session attendees who bring the needed proofs of ID to the information sessions can receive a certificate enabling them to "skip the line" when they go to the DMV for processing of their REAL ID.