AirCare will die a natural death in December 2014. It is long overdue.
The provincial program, which is operated by a private operator under TransLink oversight, was instituted in the dying days of the Social Credit government.
The Socreds were desperate to be seen as “doing something” about air pollution from vehicles. By the time the program was running in early 1992, the Socreds had been voted out and the NDP were in power.
Thus, some members of the NDP are claiming that the program came in under their government, which is technically true. However, it was not their policy initiative.
AirCare has been unpopular from the beginning, but at first it did serve a purpose.
When the program began, there were a lot of polluting vehicles on the road. Some had pollution control equipment disabled. Others belched oil and smoke because of engine wear.
There was nothing to stop such vehicles from being driven indefinitely.
AirCare either forced these vehicles off the road, or into a shop for needed repairs.
But the testing was erratic at first, with vehicles failing at one test station and passing at another.
The program was updated several times, with newer vehicles only requiring two-year inspections, and the newest vehicles not needing them at all. This is because vehicle emission standards are much higher than they were in the early 1990s.
As a result, AirCare hasn’t really been necessary for some time. There simply aren’t enough older vehicles on the road to make the expensive and bureaucratic program necessary.
And frustration is quick to mount for drivers of newer, lower-emission vehicles, as they are forced – even if only every second year – to pay for an Aircare test that is often passed with flying colours, thus rendering the program as nothing more than a cash-grab from the government.
It would be more logical to give police and commercial vehicle inspectors power to take polluting vehicles off the road, or order them to be tested.
Random enforcement is best, in an era when emission standards are much higher than they used to be.