Is TPA promoting an illegal vehicle bridge to the Island Airport?


CommunityAIR has learned that a survey is currently being undertaken that is designed to revive the idea of a vehicle bridge to the Toronto Island Airport.

It is remarkably similar to past surveys conducted for the Toronto Port Authority ‑ that presented a carefully selected set of facts that predetermine the answers[i].

This survey will inevitably produce a result that strongly favours a bridge to the Island Airport over the currently proposed pedestrian tunnel.  Detailed notes of the survey are attached.

The questions suggest the tunnel will now cost $65 million, versus a bridge it says would cost $32 million. A bridge or a tunnel would be funded with scarce public assets, possibly repaid from airport revenues.[ii]

The last time the TPA proposed a bridge it was prohibited by then Prime Minister Paul Martin in 2005 at the request of then Toronto Mayor David Miller and City Council.

That prohibition reflected the prevailing view that a busy commercial airport has no place in the middle of Toronto’s prime recreational area, visited by some 12 million people each year.

“A bridge is clearly illegal. If this is the TPA’s initiative, and it appears to be, why would it be promoting something that is against the law?” asked Brian Iler, Chair, CommunityAIR.  “We will oppose a bridge as we did the last time it was proposed. The waterfront is too important to be despoiled by the TPA’s airport expansion fantasies.”

Last November, Porter’s Robert Deluce was reported in the Globe and Mail[iii] as stating that more infrastructure ‑ a tunnel or a bridge ‑ is an essential component of its plans for a drastic expansion of the already unacceptable number of commercial flights from the Island Airport.

Questions continue on Porter Airlines’ financial shape.  By March 31 of last year Porter had accumulated losses of $44,505,000.  Despite massive discounts, its passenger numbers have been dropping over the past six months, and it has been reducing the number of its flights[iv]

“Is the Toronto Port Authority trying to save this failing business by building a bridge for them with public money?  This is completely inappropriate for a public body,” added Iler.

The survey comes just before the TPA is scheduled to hold a public meeting[v] on its environmental assessment for the proposed tunnel.

The Survey

Notes taken during a phone call from 866 469 8365 @ 8:00 January 10, 2011

Most of this is based on notes taken, as interviewer repeated most of it slowly enough for me to scrawl some notes. The portions in italics are verbatim (or close.)

“Looking for youngest male in household?

“This is a survey on Toronto.

“First question what kind of a job is Mayor Ford doing?

“Do you prefer a vehicle bridge instead of the ferry? You could be dropped off right in front of the terminal by a taxi, shuttlebus or private vehicle. Also, you could park your own car or bicycle near the terminal.

“In addition, emergency vehicles would be able to use the bridge.

“The estimated cost is $32,000,000.

“or

“Would you prefer a pedestrian only tunnel? You could take the ferry or a tunnel with your baggage?

“For the tunnel you would take an elevator 8-10 stories down to a 400 foot moving walkway, then another elevator up and walk to the terminal (with your baggage).

“No emergency response vehicles could use the tunnel.

“The cost will be $65,000,000.

“I said I’d vote for the tunnel, but the way it looked almost everyone else had voted for the bridge.

“My interviewer laughed and said “yeah”.

“Then came a question about which candidate I voted for (Ford, Smitherman, Pantalone), and my year of birth “to help categorize their responses?”.

“The caller’s number is 866-469- 8365.”



[ii] The tunnel was originally projected to cost as little as $20 million. That estimate went up to $38 million in August 2009, and by last November, to $45 million.  Now they are saying that the tunnel will cost $65 million. Can the TPA have any credibility, given the huge  variance in these projections?

 

[iii] Globe and Mail “Porter to benefit from slot expansion” November 16, 2010

“Porter Airlines Inc. will benefit from any growth in takeoff and landing slots at Billy Bishop Toronto City Airport, Porter chief executive officer Robert Deluce said Monday.

“The Toronto Port Authority (TPA), which oversees the island airport, has already awarded 156 slots to Porter, or 77 per cent of the current total of 202 slots available.

“But Mr. Deluce said the TPA isn't constrained by the existing cap, and could increase the total number of commercial slots available to 300 within three years, if a pedestrian tunnel is built by 2012 or so. "It's very much dependent on improvements to infrastructure," he said after a presentation to Insight Information Co.'s airline investment conference in Toronto.

“Privately owned Porter, which suspended plans for an initial public offering earlier this year, will revisit the IPO route by mid-2011, said Mr. Deluce, who added that the regional carrier could opt for an IPO or raise funds through private equity.

[iv] Porter’s data discloses that its December revenue passenger miles (the total number of paying passengers, times the miles each flew) of 57.9 million are a marked decline from the peak months of July and August - 61.4 and 63.7 million respectively. A drop in passenger loads of -9.1% since August.

See  last week’s CommunityAIR Press Release at http://blog.communityair.org/2011/01/08/fewer-flightsbusiness-has-peaked.aspx

[v] Wednesday, January 12, at the Radisson Hotel, Queen’s Quay, 6:30 p.m.


 

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