I was a tiny bit surprised when I saw the Friday article in the CA noting that staffing cuts at vehicle inspection stations has led to incredibly long lines. I know there are budget problems in the city, but seriously? You want to make it more difficult for people to do something that you require them to do? I loved the quote attributed to Mayor Wharton, “I don’t accept the premise that people should have to wait in line.” Of course he doesn’t. The mayor had an employee assigned to take his personal car through inspection. And the employee didn’t want to wait in line either – he finagled registering the mayor’s car without going through inspection at all.
It didn’t take a day for the city to announce they’d extend hours and pay overtime to reduce the wait at the city’s three inspection stations – but only through the end of June. If you’re going to pay all that extra money to keep the stations open long; why did they lay off staff and cut hours in the first place? Is anybody taking the long view around here? Pay the little money up front to avoid paying the big money down the road to fix a problem later.
I wrote about vehicle inspections last June, noting “there are three inspections stations operated by the city of Memphis… for every car in Memphis. The lines are so long, people have to plan entire days around getting their cars inspected. The city has had to install online web cameras to let people have some idea of how long the lines are. Once you get through, you get a piece of paper that you have to take with you to a county office to renew your tags. Only the Washington inspection station has a county clerk drive through window attached.” And I made that point before the recent slow downs.
I also wrote about the inspection process in Atlanta, where I lived before coming back to Memphis. “Drivers in the 13 counties in the greater Atlanta area have to get their vehicles tested each year. Georgia’s Clean Air Force provides testing for cars & trucks made between 1985 and 2007 (newer vehicles are exempt). I moved there in 1999 with a 1999 model car, so I didn’t have to go through inspection until 2002. Having to go somewhere and get your car inspected is always a hassle, but they’ve got it set up so there are 750 testing stations with 900 lanes available. That includes gas stations, oil change centers, auto repair shops and car dealer service centers. So, there’s always somewhere you could go – quickly – and get an inspection. And the inspections only cost $25! Even better, they entered the information into a database that went straight to the vehicle registration folks… so no need to carry a certificate around showing your car was checked.”
Okay, that’s 750 testing stations in 13 counties that have a population of more than four million people. The way the city is talking, they’re working on the assumption that a new station on Appling Road is going to be a way to solve the problems around here. There’s 670,000 people in Memphis. They don’t all drive cars, but a lot of them do. Four understaffed inspection stations probably aren’t going to go far enough to solve the problem caused by three understaffed inspection stations. The city couldn’t find a way to split inspection fees with auto shops looking for some extra income?