Federal Finance Minister Jim Flaherty has announced that the Federal Government is going ahead with the building of a new airport in Pickering. However, the question is whether or not we really need another airport in the G.T.A. when we already have John C. Munro Hamilton International Airport, Lester B. Pearson Airport in Mississauga, and the Billy Bishop Airport on Toronto Island. Plus there is Buttonville Municipal Airport. I personally do not think that we need another airport.
Let’s see how we could handle the transportation demands:
1) Billy Bishop airport. Porter already handles many short range locations already including Montreal, Ottawa, Halifax, Chicago, and New York, Moncton, Quebec City, Mont Tremblant, St. John’s Sault Ste. Marie, Sudbury, Timmins, Windsor, Washington, and Boston. Season service includes Myrtle Beach, and Burlington Vermont. This allows people to get to some short-mid range locations. Billy Bishop should be retained for mid range routes.
2) Lester B. Pearson airport handles all different routes from short runs (to Ottawa and Montreal for example) to International flights. There are two terminals, and Pearson can certainly be retained to handle the needs of long distance flights.
3) Hamilton airport. The airport in Hamilton can be utilized to take some pressure off Pearson for many domestic and North American flights.
4) Buttonville Municipal Airport. This airport is on the brink of being shut down. However, it offers some vital services to the G.T.A. including a hub for air ambulances, the York Regional Police’s helicopter, planes for some TV and radio channels, etc. While it can only handle small planes at the moment, perhaps it should be expanded to allow for short range flights (such as those to Northern and Southwestern Ontario) thus taking some pressure off Pearson and Billy Bishop.
5) What has not really been mentioned with regards to the announcement of the Pickering airport is VIA Rail. VIA Rail needs to see more investment on the part of the Federal Government and (like their counterparts in the U.S.) the Provincial Governments to subsidize better service along its routes. For example, slots can be added at Billy Bishop and Pearson if VIA Rail provided faster and more reliable service across the country, but especially in the Windsor-Quebec City corridor.
For example, if there were more trains between Toronto and the cities of Ottawa and Montreal, then people would not always have to fly between Toronto and those cities. Both Porter and Air Canada, for example, both offer many flights every day from Toronto to Ottawa and Montreal, but this would not be required if VIA Rail was put in a position to take a larger percentage of the business on those routes. Then those spaces would be freed up for other flights.
While Amtrak and VIA operate the Maple Leaf as a day train between Toronto and New York City, it would also take some pressure off Pearson and Billy Bishop if an overnight train was also offered between Toronto and New York. This would allow people to board a train in the evening in Toronto, arrive in New York in the morning, do business (or go see a play, etc.), and then get on a train in the evening and be back in Toronto the next day. And this would also work in reverse. The same could occur between Toronto and Chicago with an overnight train.
Also, many different airlines travel over the same routes from Pearson. Westjet used to use Hamilton airport, but now uses Pearson. Perhaps Air Canada and Westjet could be persuaded to move some of their flights to Western Canada to Hamilton – for example, instead of spending money on an airport in Pickering, perhaps some of that money could be spent on expanding and upgrading Hamilton’s airport to provide better service there. Also, Hamilton is scheduled to get a new GO station to accommodate all day service (while GO’s Hunter Street station will be retained as well), so perhaps an L.R.T. using Upper James Street could be built to move people from the Hamilton airport to the new GO station and then people could travel by GO Transit to Toronto.
There are options, and we need to look at all these options to improve the current airports that will serve the G.T.A. and not to force a new airport on Pickering, a city that is against having a new airport built there. Plus, VIA Rail can have its services improved to allow for better service and to take a larger stake of the market for several routes. Let’s make what we have work more efficiently before building a new airport.