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Canadian Urbanism Uncovered



  1. I used to live the Waterclub condos and Queen Quay and I still regularly bike along to waterfront and I was never bothered by the planes.

    If fact some other people who lived in the building said they where disappointed at how quiet the planes where because it was harder to watch them go by.

    One of the original fears about the bridge is that if the airport failed, the land would be used for housing for the elite. A tunnel can’t be used by cars so it will keep the islands largely car free.

  2. “Air Canada and WestJet planes on the same route, by comparison, have equivalent fuel efficiency and are 70-80% full.”

    Now I am not an expert, but I would assume that a 737 (the only jet WestJet flies) does not have the same efficiency as Q400. Air Canada operates a ton of different planes and mixes them around on routes time to time. Apples to oranges.

  3. I am tired of the people who say that the airport was here before we were, so stop complaining. The airport was here, and as a private pilot, I loved it. However the airport is nowhere near what it was, and it continues to evolve into a monster. I have a partnership in a small plane and live next door to the airport, yet I am unable to keep my plane at City Centre/Billy Bishop because Porter will not allow it. All the General Aviation aircraft (small private airplanes) are being forced out of the airport. Brian is correct when he says most could or would live with the airport as it was. We can not and will not live with what it has become.

  4. Think of the municipal taxes that could be regularly generated by a sensitive recreational, residential and commercial mixed redevelopment of the TCCA lands. think of the iconic architectural entrance to the Port of Toronto those strategically positioned acres could host, Toronto being Canada’s Greatest Great Lakes City. This is a municipal, provincial and national issue, not a Nimby one as oft described. Think of how convenient the TCCA will be relative to fast rail from downtown to Pearson, coming in 2015, and the consequent drop in popular use of the TCCA, and Porter’s consequent failure before its operations ever became profitable. Think of the many oudoor concerts and other events within and around the Hasrbourfront and Ontario Place and CNE grounds that will no longer be drowned by airport noise and cascaded with airport fumes. Thnk of the traffic congestion at the foot of Bathurst that will then subside. Think again about this pathetic pedestrian underwater walkway solution that will cost quite a bit more than $50 million of federal taxpayer dollars one way or another and overwhelm the residential communities expanding dramatically along and behind Harbourfront. Think ahead just a little, with some sanity.

  5. There’s also the question of whether TCCA will remain relevant once an airport rail link is built, which will hopefully be considered when long term borrowing plans are made. Keeping it there also makes filming movies along the western waterfront impossible. This is too often forgotten in many arguments about how having this airport is a major economic driver. It’s not. It’s a major opportunity cost. Opening up that Island to a design charrette for cultural buildings or something of that sort would be a really good discussion starter that Community AIR should be pursuing.

  6. Well, if Porter is running at half capacity, maybe they can really double their number of passengers without increasing the number of flights, possible? Maybe the lack of a fixed link is what is holding it back, possible?

    I am not a resident along the lakeshore so I don’t know their experience, but as a rather frequent visitor, I have to say the flights do not at all hamper my enjoyment of the waterfront. If anything, I found the low flying planes an enjoyable sight. As for noise and pollution, nothing really beats Gardiner and Lakeshore.

  7. Jake – I live in East York, nowhere near the rail link. What is it going to do for me and everyone else east of Jarvis?

    The only thing wrong with the tunnel is that it isn’t the end of a streetcar link from Bathurst and Union Stations (200m to the quayside, 100m across the channel and a Union-type loop). Instead Mayor CarIsKing wants 7500m of underground streetcar tunnel where there is more than enough room on Eglinton east of Laird.

  8. Because if there is one thing the waterfront is lacking, it is residential development. I mean, take one look at the place and you’ll see… not a condo to be found anywhere! 

  9. Mike C, A person in the lower middle class could afford to fly Porter. They probably couldn’t afford to be a recreational pilot.

  10. What about even one plane off-course crashing? With homes, schools, community centre only 100 metres from airport, plus Harbourfront development, over 60 high-rise condos within a four-square block area just north of Queen’s Quay, Toronto Islands homes and waterfront boating, we could have an immense catastrophe!

    Small commuter plane crashes occur fairly regularly. How extensive have safety studies of the airport and adjacent areas been?

  11. Mark – I would welcome the opportunity to interview either Rob Deluce or a representative from the TPA. I’d be curious to see what interesting things they have to say about public space and other issues relevant to Spacing. 

  12. We should think big with the airport land and the waterfront in general. I’d infill the lake and start building mixed-use neighbourhoods with that land as the starting point, with canals in the centre of the streets, with cafes and pedestrian-oriented businesses fronting the canals. In the winter, people would go skating on them and warm up with the cafes. I’d take Amsterdam as the inspiration; to hell with New York lite as the city’s vision. It would be like the original Harbour City concept formed with input by Jane Jacobs, except less pavilion-Modernist. We’d have a one-of-a-kind North American cityscape.

  13. It’s important to discuss issues at TCCA in the wider context, such as:

    – cost of flying to Toronto

    – how visitors perceive the city

    – ability to get to an airport without driving

    – overall mix of uses on the waterfront

    – future of Gardiner

    On most of the above topics, Toronto has failed miserably to keep up with its peers.  Pearson costs a fortune to get to via cab or even express bus and is miserable to drive to, there is no rail link (call me in 2025 when some crap version of one finally opens), and the city looks like Atlanta to visitors when they take the roads into town from our main air hub.  As an ex-pat who flies back once or twice a year, and someone who used to fly on AC turboprops to the Island in the 90s, I can tell you that Porter has done more for the city than a decade’s worth of hot air from Toronto Tourism.  They made Toronto accessible and beautiful again for visitors, and that matters in the real world.  They have also helped make airfares more competitive.

    Meanwhile, the city has shown its bankrupt, pro-car, leaderless non-vision by coming up with no actual solutions to the Gardiner after two decades of weak talk.  While SF, Boston, Milwaukee, Dallas, and even Oklahoma City tear down, relocate and cover their waterfront expressways Toronto’s  remains as dreary as ever.  It’s not the condos that kill the waterfront in Toronto (ever been to Chicago, Miami or New York?  They have those condo thingys too, and they are a lot taller.)  It’s the elevated train tracks and highway infrastructure that suck the life out of the place and cut it off. The benefit to killing the Island airport seems somewhat limited given these parameters.

    So, given the failures of Pearson and the Gardiner, and the positive impact of Porter on the city’s -overall- tourism and quality of life, I have no problem with seeing the Island continue as a commercial airport.  The no-jet limit is enough of a compromise for me.

    As for the tunnel, let’s go back to the point that no infrastructure gets built easily in Toronto and if someone wants to build you a tunnel, anywhere in the 416, you should take it!  No matter what future you personally envision for the island, a tunnel is a very valuable asset.  For the airport, obviously great.  For a future without an airport, even better.  This could be a bike-friendly tunnel years from now that provides winter access and an alternate to the ferries (which should cost $50 by then for a family of four to use).  Read up on the history of the Greenwich Tunnel and you will see that a pedestrian tunnel can have a very long and successful life even as its surroundings change dramatically.

    So go for tunnel.  Take Porter and the airport too, for now.  And if you really want the Island airport gone, start agitating for better rail links to Pearson, lower airline taxes there and while you’re at it, a wholesale move of Buffalo airport (Toronto’s main cheap-flight commercial alternate airport, with eight times the traffic) to Hamilton.  Only then you will have the same setup as Chicago (O’Hare/Midway) and can rip up the Island as they did to Meigs Field.

  14. Shirley Bush – Pearson is surrounded by buildings, so is Buttonville.  By contrast, if a plane overruns at City Centre, it gets wet.  In any case, if “world class” London can have a City Centre Airport with 68 tonne Airbus A318 jets landing there, Toronto can surely get away with some far quieter 30 tonne turboprops.

    If someone suggested infilling the lake to build a new airport, I’d call them crazy. However, previous generations bequeathed this built infrastructure which recent events have shown a genuine market for.  As iskyscraper said, even if the airport goes, the tunnel remains useful – were I mayor one project I’d like to see is the toll bridging of the eastern gap to give better cheaper access to the Islands.

  15. Iler and his Community Air clowns have been proven wrong at every turn. The airport is a boon to Toronto. The tunnel is being paid for by airport users. And whatever noise and pollution it produces pales in comparison to the Gardiner.

    If the island airport was an eyesore, was obsolete or took up valuable space without providing a net benefit to the city, I’d be the first to say shut it down. But it is a unique transportation facility that serves hundreds of thousands of people who like its location and service.

    It might not fit in to the waterfront perfectly, but it fits in better than a couple of dozen high-rises thrown up around Spadina and Lake Shore. Now THAT is a travesty.

  16. Darwin O’Connor rasise a query about the Q400’s alleged fuel efficiency.
    Porter and Bombardier, the Q400 manufacturer, claim 30-40% less emissions for the aircraft. But Bombardier admits that that’s only where it has replaced similar capacity older generation and/or 50-seat jet aircraft.”
    Of course, the correct comparison is with those jets used by Porter’s competition. Turns out there is no material difference in fuel consumption on a passenger/kilometre basis between a 78-passenger Q400 and the jets used by Porter’s competitors: see this, from Flybe’s helpful calculator, at

    • Standard Q400 with 78 seats: Total fuel consumed 1044kg and CO2 emitted/passenger 42 kg

    • Porter Q400 with 70 seats owing to the short runway at the Island Airport: Total fuel consumed 1044kg and CO2 emitted /passenger 46.8 kg – higher owing to the reduced number of seats

    • Airbus 319 with 156 seats: Total fuel consumed1961 kg and CO2 emitted /passenger: 40

    • Boeing 737-300 with 149 seats: Total fuel consumed 2002kg and CO2 emitted /passenger: 42

    Porter’s aircraft are, in fact, LESS efficient, on a per passenger basis.
    And as the data Porter releases on a monthly basis make clear, Porter’s planes are on average only about half full (50.6% in February), while its competitors fill many more of their seats. Porter’s Q400 greenhouse gas emissions per passenger-kilometre (and therefore its fuel consumption) are far greater per passenger than its Pearson-based competition.

  17. I am puzzled that someone looking to slam the Q400 would use a document produced by *the Q400’s largest customer worldwide* to tout how green it is. See also:

    For the Toronto airshed, the important issues are takeoff/landing emissions and takeoff/landing noise, not what fuel burn is at 25,000 feet over Madoc, Ontario. A competition with aircraft that are banned at YTZ is a bit pointless, but even then the Q400 is superior on both counts to both CFM56 powered airliners mentioned above. But haters gonna hate…

  18. It wasn’t me who asked about fuel efficiency.

    How long of a flight is you efficiency numbers based on?

    Smaller planes are more efficient during take off and landing while larger planes are more efficient during cruising. This means that small planes are better for short flights and big planes are better for long ones.

    Porter focuses on short flights, so to compare you have to look at the efficiency of the larger planes over short flights. Then add on the fuel used to get to the airport.

  19. I agree with Yu in that it seems like Community Air is trying to have it both ways with their two arguments against the tunnel.

    On the one hand they are saying Porter is failing and only running planes at 50% capacity so they might default on the loans, and on the other they are saying that the tunnel could lead to massive expansion.  Even if the tunnel allowed Porter to almost double the number of people on board, they still wouldn’t need to actually grow their number of flights (although I do realize they likely would to some degree).

    Also, as someone who just moved back to Toronto after several years abroad I also agree with iSkyScaper to some extent: people flying into Pearson aren’t greeted by Toronto putting it’s best foot forward, while people flying into Billy Bishop are.  If you’ve never flown into or out of the island airport, it’s really something else.

  20. The photo speaks volumes about Iler and the kind of people who are objecting to the island airport: people who don’t live anywhere near it (like Iler in Cabbagetown or wherever) and a handful of yacht-club types (again, Iler) who are worried about a surface fixed link and its effect on sailing in the western gap.

  21. I was against Porter air but I changed my mind. I now perceive it as a cheaper, more humane, and greener solution to flying. Instead of burning fuel in long cab to Pearson followed by burning fuel for 25 minutes waiting to take off I am in the air within 2 minutes of the door closing on Porter.

    The more I looked at it the more I found that Community Air was against the airport and that was that; I have find many of their claims not to be based in reality as my experience to NY and Ottawa and Montreal has been sold out planes in both directions. I can also say that I have many friends who have lived next to the airport from day one who love Porter and think it makes the area more of an urban hub. Some people see the island airport as part of an interconnected green transit world.

    I would also remind people that the airport link will not be a family friendly public transit GO style train but a costly premium service with only 3 stops. Hard to beat the few minutes it takes to use the free Porter shuttle from downtown and avoid the 45 minutes of lineups at Pearson. I think the demand for the island will stay.