Debunking the Threat of Porter’s Expansion


Ladies and gentlemen, please fasten your seatbelts, Porter Airlines is ready for another takeoff.

Once again, Porter Airlines and its CEO Robert DeLuce are embroiling the citizens of Toronto in another controversy. Since its beginning, upstart Porter Airlines, has proven where others have failed, that operating a regularly scheduled airline from Toronto City Centre Billy Bishop Airport can be done profitably and with panache.

In its first few years of operation, Porter had to contend with locally organized political opposition which made the organization and its concept of soaring through the skies in style, the cannon fodder over which elections were fought. Thankfully, times have changed, and progress and economic stimulus are no longer looked down upon.

Now, with an underwater pedestrian tunnel linking the mainland and the island terminal to be completed in the latter half of 2014, all systems are just about ready for the company to fly to the next phase. That being said, several months ago DeLuce announced a conditional purchase agreement for up to thirty, Bombardier CS100 whisper jets.

With this, Porter hopes to expand into the recreational travel market and provide service to destinations such as Los Angeles and Vancouver. This could transform the company from a regional carrier to one of national and international status flying longer distances and competing with the likes of Air Canada and Westjet.

In order to proceed to the next step, Toronto City Council must agree to amend the current Tripartite Agreement with the Toronto Port Authority and federal regulators or exempt the CS100’s.

This has created a huge kerfuffle with the prominent local NIMBY group comprised mostly of high density luxury condo dwellers along the lakefront. As you would expect, they have raised the same old outcries including increased noise and air pollution from jets, increased flights from the airport, environmentally toxic fumes creating a wasteland of bird carcasses, destroying any opportunity for the enjoyment of the city’s waterfront by all, the drop of their property values, and not to mention the plain old accusation of destroying the quality of life for everyone.

The original request for 168 metre east and west runway extensions was increased to 200 metres.

A preliminary report from City’s Council’s Executive Committee, addressed the same old barrage of complaints being hurled at DeLuce. At this point, the findings look favourable.

The 200 metre runway extensions will allow aircraft to takeoff using less power, and thereby creating less noise.

The environmental impact on fish would be positive. Their habitat would be improved, and the capture of sediment would improve the beach and dune at Hanlan’s Point. Waves in the inner harbour would be calmer by the extension of a west runway and benefit boaters. The wildlife habitat, and especially birds will increase to the point that it will create a nuisance that will necessitate bird control measures, and migratory bird patterns will not be affected.

There is a cap on the number of flights that can be accommodated at the airport. It may attract competition from other carriers, but the finite number of flights going into, or coming out of the airport cannot increase beyond that cap.

The next issue to be thrown at DeLuce is that of falling property values. Did you know that since Porter began operating in 2006, the population along the lakefront has increased from 14,237 to 29,905? At this time, 24 new development applications with 47 buildings are being proposed which will bring in more than 13,000 additional residential units with 22,000 new inhabitants. Commercial uses are also expected to increase with these new developments and the expansion of the Central Business District south of Union Station.

Since its operations began, the waterfront has continued to expand in spite of, and despite Porter; and it is expected to continue to be a well sought after residential address. So there you have it! It’s pure NIMBY-ism!

For close to 30 years, I’ve lived in the heart of North York, along the Pearson flight path, with planes flying over my home every two to three minutes. This translates to well over 400 planes each and every day. I feel that I have little if any right to complain as it was my decision to purchase my home at this location knowing full well that aircraft traffic and noise would only increase. One cannot escape the noise of aircraft wherever you are in this city. Thus, the waterfront complainers should “suck it up”. They knew full well even before they moved to the waterfront, that the airport was there.

To see my point on NIMBY-ism, all one has to do is compare Toronto to U.K.’s London City Airport. London began operating in 1987. Flights in and out, and operating times are strictly regulated. On an average day, London City has about 250 flights; while Toronto has 200. On a yearly basis, approximately 3 million passengers go through London City Airport; as compared to 1.5 million that used Toronto City Centre in 2010.

In 2012, the number of environmental complaints received by the London City Airport was less than one complaint per thousand aircraft movements, or a mere 26 in total.

Finally, to deflate any political argument that any expansion of the City Centre Airport will be negligible in terms of generating any economic impact, one only has to look at the comments made by British Prime Minister David Cameron and prominent Britons. The success of developments such as Canary Wharf and the growth of East London have gone hand-in-hand with the operation of London City Airport.


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