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The Boston Globe

Metro

RMV site down before fee hikes

Customers had problems locking in lower payments

In the weekend before Registry of Motor Vehicles fees were set to rise, customers found themselves unable to log in to the agency’s online system to lock in lower registration rates before the prices jumped on July 1.

Officials at the Massachusetts Department of Transportation said the Registry website needed to undergo routine maintenance.

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But some customers say it is unfair that the agency decided to perform that maintenance in the days before the fee hikes.

“It was frustrating,” said Joan Marshall of Medford, who tried and failed to renew her registration Sunday. “I didn’t know that the site would be down. There was no message on the homepage or registration renewal page.”

The technology blunder added insult to injury for commuters peeved about the increase in fees on car registrations, inspections, and driving tests. Those hikes, which were announced earlier this year, are meant to cover a $53 million shortfall in the Transportation Department’s budget.

Starting Tuesday, the price of vehicle registrations rose from $50 to $60, inspections from $29 to $35, and driving tests from $20 to $35.

MassDOT spokesman Mike Verseckes said transactions on the Registry’s website were shuttered Saturday morning because of the implementation of a new security firewall and were down Monday night in order to incorporate the new fees and conduct tests.

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On Friday, June 27, the MassDOT Twitter account announced a temporary shutdown on the Registry website that would run from 5 to 10 a.m. Saturday. But the announced timing of the maintenance outages did not square with accounts from customers, who said they struggled to use the site throughout the weekend, to no avail.

At 11 p.m. Saturday, the website remained out of commission, offering the message: “RMV transactions are unavailable due to maintenance. Please check back later.”

On Sunday night, Marshall went online to pay to renew her registration after receiving a reminder notice in the mail. The website was still down.

On Monday morning, when MassDOT tweeted to remind people about the impending fee increases, a Twitter user using the name Tina Mikhael messaged the agency, wondering, “Why schedule computer maintenance for the night before?”

Marshall eventually got onto the site midday Monday and was able to pay her renewal fee. She said she was not desperate to save the $10 before the July 1 fee change; mostly, she just wanted to get the task done before it slipped her mind.

“I wanted to do it right away, because it’s the kind of thing you would forget,” Marshall said.

Still, she said, she felt the scheduling of the site maintenance amounted to poor planning in light of the upcoming fee changes and at least gave the appearance that the agency was trying to prevent people from renewing their registration before the price increases kicked in.

“It seems a little tricky to have the site go down the weekend before,” Marshall said. “It’s bad timing.”

Martine Powers can be reached at martine.powers@globe.com. Follow her on Twitter @martinepowers.

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