Fact Check: Pearson Able to Grow Substantially, No Need for Expanded Island Airport

Pearson Master Plan Shows Capacity Would Turn Expanded Island Airport into White Elephant September 30, 2013 TWikimedia_Photo_Pearson_Airport_2013-09-30ORONTO – Sometimes the truth is hard to accept. That’s certainly the case for the chorus of jet proponents that keeps arguing about Pearson Airport being at or even beyond capacity. The flawed conclusion: it’s necessary to expand the Island Airport with jets. The problem: Pearson isn’t anywhere close to capacity, making a bigger Island Airport unnecessary.

Current Capacity

Under current constrictions at Pearson, a practical maximum of 520,000 aircraft movements can take place per year (each takeoff or landing counts as one movement) – given the current infrastructure. In 2012, 434,000 aircraft movements took place – and a good chunk of them freight planes or training flights. Total passenger number was at 34.9 million. That means Pearson Airport can accommodate another approx. 7 million passengers per years without making any changes to the existing infrastructure (for a total of 41.8 million passengers per year).

Planned Capacity

If Pearson Airport decides to beef up it’s “airside infrastructure”, it can grow much further. According to the Greater Toronto Airport Authority (GTAA), the arms-length federal entity running Pearson, there are no obstacles to developing sufficient terminal infrastructure to accommodate growth in passengers up to the maximum airside capacity. The GTAA forecasts potential capacity of up to 54 million passengers per year. The Pearson Airport master plan makes it clear that the key to unlocking this capacity increase of 12 million more passengers is the construction of a sixth runway. The plans are already drawn up, the Environmental Assessment completed. All that Pearson has to decide on is when to go ahead – probably before 2017. A sixth runway is expected to raise the annual practical limit on aircraft movements to 580,000. Additional or expanded structures (e.g., taxiways, deicing facilities, terminal piers, parking, etc.) would be required to support a new runway (see Master Plan 4.8). The design and construction of the new runway would likely take three to four years. The current master plan states that the runway should be in place by 2019.
In addition to the runway plans, the GTAA has also committed and budgeted $407 million for the planned expansion of Terminal 3. Another $114 million for upgrades to Terminal 1 are being considered.


In short, Pearson Airport is not anywhere near capacity. Without any capital investments, Toronto’s existing jet airport can accommodate around 7 million passengers more per year. Plans for a sixth runway area underway. Once completed, total capacity will reach 54 million passengers per year – a 20 million increase over 2012’s passenger numbers. Compare this to growing the Island Airport to 4 million or 5 million passengers per year under the current jet proposal. With the completion of the Union-Pearson Express in 2015 we will have a fast and convenient connection to Toronto’s international airport. Coupled with the planned capacity increase, the train connection will make Toronto Pearson even more attractive for travellers and airlines. Toronto is doing just fine with Pearson as its jet airport. Paving the lake and putting jets on the Island Airport is simply not needed. _______________ References: