Tuesday, October 13, 2009

NIMBY without the varnish

Downtown Toronto's local paper, the Bulletin, thinks Porter Airlines belongs at Pearson International Airport. No surprise there; they have generally opposed operations at Toronto City Centre Airport. But they make their case for an alternative in unusually bald terms: Porter belongs at Pearson. Their stated reasons have a well-worn ring to them: they refer to air traffic as a "blight", and they term the waterfront "residential" and "tourism oriented".

Calling the waterfront "residential" begs the question: what about the people who live near Pearson? Anyone with access to Google and the Canadian census (now on the web, although you have to work a bit to get the data) knows that 58,000 people live in the neighbourhood directly across the road from Pearson Airport, with houses considerably closer to the Pearson flight paths than any dwelling on the central waterfront comes to the Toronto City Centre Airport flight paths. If people live near Toronto City Centre Airport, which will at most handle 3% of Toronto's air traffic load, and people live near Pearson, which handles the other 97%, what makes imperative that we relieve the downtown neighbourhoods of any burden at all, and shunt it off to the people of Rexdale and Malton? The argument from tourism rings hollow; considering how many tourists get to their destinations, people who live near an airport have something to do with tourism as well. The Bulletin's argument seems to suggest that the downtown deserves all the jobs and the urban beautification that tourism brings, while Rexdale and Malton should get all the noise.

Needless to say, I disagree. I suspect most people who live under the Pearson flight paths would disagree. And I hope the more preceptive of the people who live on the downtown waterfront see they have more to gain from a city that at least tries to share environmental burdens than they have to lose by putting up with 3% of the air traffic that keeps this city wealthy and culturally vibrant.

No comments: