Phillip Fine questions if Canada’s busiest airport shouldn’t be the focus for aerotropolis development, rather than its struggling neighbour.
To think about Toronto’s Pearson International Airport is to contend with superlatives. For starters, it’s Canada’s biggest and busiest airport. In 2012 alone it logged close to 436,000 aircraft movements, while handling nearly 32 million passengers – just 2.5 million less than Canada’s total population.
Pearson also offers flights to 155 destinations worldwide. In fact, it’s only one of two airports in North America with scheduled direct flights to all six inhabited continents.
Not surprisingly, then, Pearson is an economic powerhouse, generating over 225,000 jobs, both direct and indirect.
Just 50 minutes to the southwest of Pearson in the suburbs of Hamilton, Ontario, is John C. Munro International Airport. It’s busy, but hardly to the same degree as Pearson, having handled just 352,000 passengers in 2012 – a little over one percent of Pearson’s total.
In fact, total passenger traffic through John C. Munro has actually plunged 193,800, or 35.1 per cent, since 2008. And although the airport, like Pearson, obviously pumps money into Hamilton’s economy, it’s a good bet the amount is far, far less than what Pearson contributes to the Greater Toronto area.
So which airport would be thought most likely to embrace the aerotropolis concept, the template with which airports re-create themselves as dynamic hubs, as engines of economic growth in their own right? John C. Munro, served by just three commercial airlines, or Pearson International, which reportedly boasts 70-plus more?
A quick search of the Net, including Pearson’s web site, turns up no mention of the word aerotropolis, let alone a lengthy “vision” document attesting to the airport’s goal of perhaps becoming one.
Moreover, two requests to Pearson’s public relations department for the airport’s response to the aerotropolis concept went unanswered.
But John C. Munro; well that’s a different story. In early July, the airport got some good news from the Ontario Municipal Board, the province’s independent agency that oversees land use. Specifically, the Board told John C. Munro to go ahead with its Airport Employment Growth District plan, aka its aerotropolis concept. The plan will see 555 hectares of industrial and commercial land around the airport developed by 2031.
Moreover, as befits the aerotropolis definition, the airport is intended to become an economic powerhouse, generating 80,000 jobs over the next 18 years. The action has not been without its critics, with the Hamiltonians for Progressive Development group leading the anti-aerotropolis charge. However last week their mission to halt development was halted itself as a judge ruled the group could not challenge the OMB’s decision in court.
Although Pearson, unlike its Hamilton counterpart, doesn’t have 555 hectares of contiguous land to develop, it does have the ingredients – rail and superhighway access, office and industrial parks – necessary for an aerotropolis to succeed.
So, why isn’t Pearson officially adopting the aerotropolis concept as well? After all, it’s the most important airport in Canada. Maybe a Pearson spokesperson will have an answer.
– See more at: Global Airport Cities