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.

In defense of Porter Airlines and the Island Airport

I started writing this on the Spacing website ( but it got a little long and I don’t want to clog up their space. Also, I haven’t posted here in a long time so why not come back with a wildly unpopular opinion bundled with some inflammatory comments. Here goes…

I’m a regular business traveler and also (I’d like to think) a city booster who believes strongly in people over vehicles. It is that belief in accessible transit for all that prevents me from getting on the bandwagon against the Island Airport and, by extension, Porter Airlines. Regardless of the lousy way in which the TPA continues to fleece us through the federal government, they allow a wonderful company like Porter to exist and in the long term, that’s positive. I get fairly exasperated listening to people like our Mayor tell us out of one side of their mouth that we should support mass transit while the other side is telling us that some mass transit is better than others. What makes air travel so undesirable? 

What could possibly be more accessible than a central airport? And what could be more responsible than a company that uses one of the quietest passenger airplanes in the world (the Q400) to service it? Add that the airplane was designed and built in Canada and people should be down at the airport on the weekends writing love notes on the terminal wall. Alas, this is not the case. The fight over the airport has at times become so vitriolic that that the TPA has had to sue for defamation. A case they won, by the way. (Tip: If you want to prove that an organization is the enemy, don’t lose a defamation case to them.)

So what’s the real problem here? It can’t be that an airport exists in downtown Toronto that allows people in larger Canadian cities and New York City access to our city easier and cheaper than if they had to go to Pearson. Can it?

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