New streetcars, new planes…is transit winning?

Today brought dual announcements about transportation in Toronto. First was Porter Airlines, the small boutique carrier operating out of Toronto City Centre, who announced expansion of their service, their fleet and ultimately their terminal. I’ve written at length in a previous post about my support for the idea of a downtown airport, especially one that’s responsibly maintained. We’ll always need international carriers, but the notion of regional travel being handles by smaller, more environmentally sensitive turbo-prop carriers might just be the future of air travel.

I don’t need to be told that air travel is not best for the environment. The carbon footprint of any airplane (even the Toronto-built Q400) is greater than any other form of transportation. But even knowing that, one can’t fault consumers for jumping on the Porter bandwagon. If you’re in the mood to go to Montreal, for almost the same price ($275.10 – Regular VIA Fare vs. $288.58 – Basic Porter Fare) and airline passenger can be in Montreal in less than 1/5 the time. Vilifying Porter for offering good service let’s VIA off the hook far too easily. The failure of the public sector to offer a fast, efficient rail service is the very reason why Porter exists. Why don’t the protesters at the bottom of Bathurst ever think about that.

The second announcement today was for new streetcars to be made by Bombardier. Not a huge surprise. When only a week ago I was reading about the potential plight of Thunder Bay should the TTC contract go to Siemens. If the TTC wanted to secure the funding necessary not only for Transit City, but also for fleet replacement then the contract was going Canadian and that’s that.

Despite the dispairity in attitudes towards air travel (private) and rail travel (public), today’s announcements demonstrate that there’s hope for a province or a country where we travel together, whatever the mode.