From City Hall: Jets at Billy Bishop? (UPDATED)

UPDATE (April 2014)

Over the past year, this issue has generated more calls and emails to my office than any other. Opinion is strongly split between those who see expansion of the Island Airport as being convenient and business-friendly and those concerned about the negative impact on  the environment, the island, and the waterfront community. As a Porter flyer, I know the convenience of the airline and have enjoyed their commitment to customer service.  I also believe that Toronto Island is a gem that needs to be protected, and that the City should be working with waterfront residents – the same way I expect it to work with Willowdale residents on other issues.

At the moment, there remains many unanswered questions, not only about the environment but about the cost. For example, how would we deal with the traffic impact near the entrance to the airport, which is already congested? How much would that cost and who would pay for it?  The City already has a list of urgent priorities that are unfunded:  subway construction, improvements to relieve congestion on the Yonge Street line, more buses to decrease overcrowding, rebuilding the Gardiner Expressway – to name a few at the top of the list.

Last month, Council authorized City staff to complete several studies so that Council will have all of the facts before it when making a decision. Ultimately, it will be these facts – on impact and cost – which will frame Council’s decision when the issue comes back next year. Council’s decision to continue studying the issue was almost unanimous and should not be interpreted as a position either for or against airport expansion/introduction of jets.

UPDATE (August 2013)

As my office has received a tremendous amount of e-mail on this issue, I pass along the City’s recent announcement that they are conducting community consultations on the proposed use of jets at the Island (Billy Bishop) Airport so that residents can provide their feedback.  

Both consultations are in the downtown area:

Workshop 1 Wednesday, September 4 Fort York – Blue Barracks Rm. 250 Fort York Blvd. 2 to 3 p.m. (drop-in) 3 to 5 p.m. (workshop)

Workshop 2 Monday, September 9 Metro Hall – Rooms 308/309 55 John St. 6 to 7 p.m. (drop-in) 7 to 9 p.m. (workshop)

Town Hall meeting (with a presentation and discussion) Thursday, September 19 Direct Energy Convention Centre, Exhibition Place – Salon 105 100 Princes’ Blvd. 6 to 7 p.m. (drop-in) 7 to 9 p.m. (presentations and discussion)

Residents can also participate online by completing this survey:

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As residents may know, Porter Airlines has recently asked City Council to consider allowing the use of new “whisper” jets at the Island (Billy Bishop) Airport.  I myself have been a user of Porter and understand the convenience for travellers to nearby cities and the loyal following the company has developed due to its high level of customer service.  There is certainly an argument to be made that expanding Porter’s service could have a positive impact on local business and tourism.  Strictly speaking as a Willowdale resident, who would not be exposed to the negatives generated from an expansion, there are many appealing aspects in this proposal.

That said, as a City Councillor, I also have the duty to consider the greater public interest.  Residents in the waterfront area deserve to be protected from increased noise and pollution – which would become an even greater problem if other airlines also wanted to operate jets from the Island.  Preserving the invaluable green space around the Islands and waterfront area in an increasingly congested city is also a critical concern.

In May, I voted with the majority of Council to proceed with instructing City staff to evaluate the Porter proposal and to report back with more detailed information and evaluation.  I will make a final decision on the issue after the evaluation is complete.