Toronto’s Pearson Intl. Airport has a problem: it’s bursting at the seams. The airport, Canada’s busiest, recently said its daily passenger count this summer is likely to hit 150,000 — a 50 per cent increase over what Pearson typically handled on its busiest days just a decade ago. Indeed, if passenger stats stay strong, the airport is likely to handle 9.6 million passengers this year between Canada Day and Labor Day — an increase of 13 per cent over the same period in 2015.
(Toronto’s Pearson International Airport)
But the wave isn’t likely to crest soon. Last December, Pearson became Canada’s first airport to log 40 million passengers a year. Yet, by 2036, it’s expected to see that number jump by roughly 62 per cent to 65 million and, just seven years later, by 38 per cent to a whopping 90 million, as the population of its catchment area, the Greater Golden Horseshoe, continues to explode.
But neither Pearson nor its sister airports across Southern Ontario may be able to handle the surge. In fact, all these airports can now handle just 70 million passengers a year. And that includes those increases in capacity that Pearson has already planned.
So, what is the airport doing to meet rising demand? For starters, it’s upgrading its two main terminals: one and three. Moreover, it’s mulling over the possibility of coordinating operations with those of its sister airports in Hamilton, Waterloo, London, Sarnia, Windsor and in downtown Toronto. This way, all six airports could work in harness, rather than individually.
But to keep pace with passenger demand, Pearson may ultimately have to build another runway. And any such addition would almost certainly set off a wave of NIMBYism, the likes of which haven’t been seen in years.