Anyone with a cell phone or computer can instantly find out how long the wait is to pay a speeding ticket in three of the county's courthouses.
"There is incredible frustration waiting in line in government offices. We are trying to make the whole process more predictable and convenient," said Palm Beach County Clerk & Comptroller Sharon Bock.
By texting CLERKPBC to the number 41411, customers get a reply listing estimated wait times to pay speeding tickets at the south, central and north courthouses. There is no charge, but standard messaging rates may apply. Wait times also are available for free at mypalmbeachclerk.com/waittimes.
The service is expected to be available in the fall at the clerk's office at the West County Courthouse in Belle Glade.
Each month, about 39,000 traffic tickets are issued in Palm Beach County. The average penalty is $166, Bock said.
"Payment of traffic tickets is a very important part of our job. We want to make it as efficient as possible," she said.
Lines get especially long to pay tickets toward the end of the month and during lunchtime, when the wait can be as long as two hours. A random check Tuesday at 1:30 p.m. showed there were 16 people waiting in line to pay traffic tickets and the wait time was 16 minutes and 22 seconds at the North County Courthouse.
The program started in April in response to reduced hours at the clerk's offices as a result of state budget cuts. Hours were reduced starting July 2 from 8 a.m.-5 p.m. to 9 a.m.-4 p.m. About 3,800 people have used the program, Bock said.
Wait times also are available online for probate and civil court at the north and south county courthouses.
Existing software was used for the system, requiring no added cost to install the program. The clerk's office pays a $29 monthly fee for the texting service, said Bock, who was elected in 2004. She is running in the Aug. 14 primary against fellow Democrat Lisa Epstein.