It's a yearly evil for Memphis drivers. Sitting through the long lines to get their emissions tested.
But the system as we know it is about to change.
Suburbanites may soon be waiting in line, too, and Memphis officials welcome the change.
"Bad air doesn't stop at political lines," said George Little, Memphis CAO. "So we would hope, given the number of commuters who drive to work in the city of Memphis, that if we're really interested in clean air, they'd look at the entire impact."
Little has been told Shelby County will opt out of emissions testing, just as Memphis has.
Nothing is official yet, but if the county does opt out, it passes the responsibility to the state. The state does things differently than what we're accustomed to in Memphis. The state looks at metropolitan areas, not cities, to determine where the pollution is coming from.
No where else in the state is just one city tested, like the practice now in Memphis. Everywhere else it is the entire county and sometimes bordering counties.
For example, five counties around Nashville go through emissions testing, but the state's purview ends at state lines.
"The only thing I don't see as a resolve for this, is those who come in from Mississippi or Arkansas," said Memphis Councilman Edmund Ford, Jr. "They also come in and pollute our air and won't have to pay anything. Unless something changes significantly where the state can make them do that, you've got 300,000 cars that come in from Mississippi and Arkansas that contribute to the air pollution."
The move will save Memphis more than $2 million annually, but drivers could see a fee just to go through inspection. All other parts of the state charge around $10.
Officials hope some of that money will go to Memphis for use of the driver testing facilities, which could drive county-wide revenue to the city if the state follows the existing model.
"I don't see the state going away from that particular model saying it's just going to be Memphians," Ford said.
The state is expecting an official decision from the county in the next week. Soon after that, the state will decide exactly how it will implement the emissions testing.
The new system would kick off with the new budget in July.
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