Wednesday, September 27, 2006

Another View of the Public Interest

Warning: Local Toronto Content

Asked by a reporter what he would like to say to Robert Deluce, the CEO of Porter Airlines, a start-up set to provide service from Toronto to a variety of cities through Toronto City Centre Airport, David Miller, the Mayor of Toronto, said this:'s time that you put your private interests aside and let the public interest prevail, and the public interest is in a revitalized waterfront.

The mayor, of course, has the same right as any citizen of Canada to his opinion. I take a different view. As a member of the public who lives in Toronto, I think I have an interest in the larger issue of environmental justice. I want to see a solution that serves everyone in the Greater Toronto region, not just an articulate, relatively wealthy and privileged neighbourhood on the Toronto waterfront.

Should Porter Air succeed, passengers who might otherwise have taken a car or train to Pearson International Airport can instead take a bus or light rail from the downtown to Toronto City Centre Airport. That change has the potential to reduce both overall noise and atmospheric pollution in the GTA region. It has the potential to reduce the human impacts of noise and pollution even more. Comparison between the Q-400 aircraft which Porter Air intends to fly with the Boeing 717 type of aircraft, which Jets-Go flew out of Pearson, before they went out of business, shows the differences. Based on the published fuel consumption figures, the Q-400 which Porter intends to use will get at least 7% more passenger miles to a gallon of jet fuel than the Boeing 717, and over the distances Porter intends to fly, the advantage of the Q-400 increases to as much as 23%.

The structure of Toronto City Centre Airport will help to further reduce the local pollution produced by flight operations there. The short taxiway and small airport reduces the amount of taxiing and holding the planes will do by 50% or better, and figures published for Midway Airport in Chicago by the US Environmental Protection Agency suggest that taxiing and idling aeroplanes produce over 70% of many of the local pollutants emitted by airport operations, including volatile organic compounds and benzine.

Measurements of sound levels of planes taking off from Pearson and TCCA make it very clear that while jets taking off from Pearson produce severe noise spikes, the Dash-8 aircraft taking off from TCCA barely register over the noise levels of traffic on the Gardiner Expressway, or the streetcar on Queen's Quay. The noise exposure forecast (NEF) contour map (produced by Shawn Morgan, used by permission) confirms what the recordings tell us; that Pearson operations subject Rexdale and Malton (a total of 150,000 people) to a barrage of noise from which the Tripartite agreements protects the waterfront neighbourhoods.

As the recent withdrawal of CanJet from scheduled passenger service shows, airlines respond to competitive pressures. If Porter succeeds, it has a very good chance of diverting passengers from noisier and dirtier jet flights out of Pearson. That, in turn, will reduce noise and pollution in the city and region as a whole.

So Porter's success offers us one way to reduce the noise, reduce the pollution, and reduce the human impacts of both, while serving environmental justice at the same time. It does not offer the only way. Mayor Miller, and his supporters, have had three years to promote alternatives: everything from high-speed rail to reduce the passenger load airlines carry, to some form of direct compensation to the communities that carry the main environmental burden. They have done nothing, except promote a plan for a world's fair, which will put seven million more people (according to the official estimates) into the air over the long-suffering children of Malton and Rexdale; that works out to one takeoff or landing every two minutes for the period of the fair. Only Robert Deluce and Porter Air have a plan that stands any immediate chance of reducing the noise and pollution we subject the children of Rexdale and Malton to. Only Deluce and his backers have put their money and their energy into a practical course that will, if it succeeds, reduce the environmental burden while improving environmental fairness.

I invite anyone with an interest in the issue to check my sources. If I've made an error somewhere, by all means, tell me. But don't tell me, yet again, that the people who live in the condos on Bathurst Quay somehow matter more than the people who live in Malton; I've lived my whole life on the premise that no one person matters any more than any other person. Don't tell me that I don't care about reducing pollution as long as it get shared; I've already said that the Deluce proposal actually has a chance to reduce pollution. If the waterfront crowd have a great idea for reducing pollution and promoting environmental justice (that means reducing pollution for everybody, not just them), tell me; I'd love to hear it. If I've made some error in my calculations, let me know that, and I'll gladly correct them.

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