TPA 'Master Plan' Raises Red Flags

The Toronto Port Authority Plan Sheds Light on Why Airport Expansion Shouldn't Fly Wikimedia_Photo_Toronto_Harbour_2013-12-01TORONTO - Sometimes it's best to go straight to the source. The TPA draft master plan is worth taking a closer look - for all the red flags it raises about expanding the Island Airport into a Pearson-by-the-Lake. Background: for months City staff in vain demanded to see a master plan for the Island Airport from the operator, the Toronto Port Authority. But what's a standard public document for Canada's premier airports wasn't available for the Island Airport. The TPA has finally relented and released a 2012 "draft" master plan (i.e. from way before Porter announced their jet plans). Despite it's serious shortcomings (no future growth scenarios, no overall business strategy, no predictions on passenger numbers, etc.), the document gives key insights why the Island Airport shouldn't be turned into a Pearson-by-the-Lake.

Landside Infrastructure Already Overwhelmed

A narrow residential street is the only access to the Island Airport ferry (and soon tunnel entrance). Funnelling more than 2 million passengers through there per year has already led to serious problems. The draft master plan makes it clear that congestion in this extremely confined area is already a problem. This is primarily due to a number of process functions being completed within a small footprint. These functions including approach roads (passenger vehicles taxi/shuttles and ferry queuing/loading), parking, curbside drop-off/pick-up and the ferry terminal. These functions operate within an extremely confined area, often resulting in significant congestion, even during non-peak periods (page 10). The traffic problems the Island Airport is and will feed into wider gridlock in Toronto - especially downtown. Then what about doubling passenger numbers to 4.6 million per year? That will mean 1.4 additional car trips downtown every year. The price tag for 'fixing' the messy situation at the foot of Bathurst Street will cost around $300 million, City staff have estimated. The TPA has graciously asked the feds and Queens Park for the money - our tax dollars!

Island Airport Will Need Massive Amounts of Parking

Industry planning guidelines suggest a provision of approximately 1,000 – 3,000 parking stalls per 1 million enplaned passengers. With approximately 1.5 million passengers, the unrestrained demand for parking at BBTCA would be approximately 750 – 2,000 parking stalls (page 33). But there are only a few hundred spots (page 11). Parking is very limited due to a lack of available land. The provision of additional vehicle parking on the island is limited and could only be efficiently accomplished with the construction of additional parking.  This is based on the consultants’ input in 2012 and does not factor in expansion, which would require another 2000-6000 spots assuming 202 slots and 4.3M Passengers from the City staff reports. Porter has already started gobbling up parking spots from the Harbourfront Centre through long-term parking arrangements on central Queens Quay. If the expansion goes ahead, this will get worse.

Expansion Will Force out General Aviation

Three scenarios in the master plan call for forcing general aviation users out of the airport through eliminating flight schools, flight training activity and/or increasing higher user fees from general aviation pilots (page 24). Squeezing out general aviation would be a violation of the Tripartite Agreement. But the TPA would have free rein to do so, allowing them to increase commercial slots to 440 from currently 202. Another reason why the jet plans shouldn't fly.

Paving the Lake with Taxiways

The current taxiway (2 locations at the existing fillet design) for the Q-400 does not meet Transport Canada recommendations and upgrades to the fillets are recommended. This implies that the CS-100, Porter’s new jet, would also require these upgrades as well. That means even more lakefill and less Lake Ontario.

Flight Paths and High-Rises Don't Mix Well

Due to its downtown location, the Island Airport is exposed to high-rise condominium developments that impact airport operations (page 41). These impacts are primarily to the Airport’s instrument approach procedures, which must be modified to ensure compliance with Transport Canada regulatory requirements. The airport approach will become even more challenging for jets (they are faster and less manuveublre than the current turboprops). And good luck, Waterfront Toronto, re-developing the Port Lands with jets thundering overhead. Transport Canada will 'identify and discourage' development projects that are at odds with the Island Airport approaches (page 46).

A Risk for Our Drinking Water

Some of the runoff from de-icing fluids currently ends up in the lake while but the bulk goes into our sewer system (page 15). The problem: de-icing chemicals are highly toxic. With the expansion plans, even more run-off will end up in the lake and ultimately our drinking water supply.