The fundamental issue for Council to consider is not about jets but whether we want the physical footprint of the airport to expand, and specifically by way of filling in the inner and outer harbours for runway extensions, and secondly how big the airport should become in terms of passenger volumes.
The physical expansion of the airport into the lake is contrary to all of the planning and work that is being undertaken along our waterfront. A larger airport on the lake is not the City's or the people of Toronto's vision for our Waterfront.
City Council adopted, unanimously, the Deputy City Manager's Report calling for passenger volume caps, an Environmental Assessment for runway extensions, an Airport Master Plan, updated City Official Plan Airport policies, an infrastructure plan, and other studies to be conducted prior to even considering any proposed expansion or amendments to the Tripartite Agreement governing the Airport. While Porter Airlines have been promoting their expansion plans, the actual Airport operator has until recently not even provided any information to the City about the proposal. A PR campaign by one airline is not the same as an actual plan to expand an airport. Council also voted to state that approval of this Item does not in any way imply City Council's support for or against the airport expansion or the introduction of jets. One of the conditions imposed by City Council on this proposal is that ALL infrastructure costs and improvements that would be required should be at the cost of the airport/airlines/passengers and that no City, Provincial, or Federal Tax dollars should be spent on expansion of the airport. This is the same model that Pearson and every other major airport in Canada is required to follow.
The airport is currently handling just over 2 million passengers a year, and it could handle approximately 3.5 million passengers. So airlines can continue to grow their business without runway extensions. Under the proposed expansion plans from Porter the airport could grow to in excess of 5 million passengers annually. To achieve that capacity a minimum of $500 million would have to be spent on airport and infrastructure improvements. Even then access to the Billy Bishop Airport will always be severely constricted at the foot of Bathurst Street. Traffic delays and congestion there will only grow worse. Making the argument of convenience a diminishing one over time.
I do not support the expansion plans as they are contrary to our waterfront plans, are not necessary, and represent an unneccessary diversion from important priorities for all orders of government. The expansion of Billy Bishop Airport has never been a priority of the City of Toronto. Our key priorities are expansion of the public transit system throughout the City, rehabilitate our municipal infrastructure, control growth, and redevelop the Portlands. Expending scarce public infrastructure dollars on expanding Billy Bishop Airport should not be a priority.
By comparison Pearson Airport handles over 32 million passengers annually and has an ultimate capacity of 46-54 million passengers annually. The Union-Pearson Rail link will open in 2015 with a capacity of 2 million passengers annually. This will be a 25 minute ride, with trains every 15 minutes. Additional stops at Dundas West Subway Station and Weston GO Station will also be opened in 2015.
At peak times it can take 20 minutes to get from Union Station to Billy Bishop Airport.
Billy Bishop Airport will never be able to divert significant volumes of passengers away from Pearson, but it can have a significant impact on our central waterfront.