Toronto to consider traffic limits at Billy Bishop

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Toronto’s deputy city manager recommends restrictions on hourly and yearly traffic at Billy Bishop Toronto City airport if Porter Airlines gains approvals to bring the Bombardier CS100 jet there, a new report shows.

The report, which will be presented to city councillors during 25 March meeting, recommends a three-phase approach for how to manage airport traffic and the necessary infrastructure to support the growing numbers of passengers that would come to Billy Bishop if Porter operates the 107-seat jets.

Porter is seeking to firm a conditional order for up to 30 of the jets first announced last April, however the deal needs to meet several approvals from authorities in Toronto before it is finalised. In order for the carrier to start operating the jets in 2016 as planned, a tripartite agreement between the city of Toronto, Transport Canada and the Toronto Port Authority banning jets at the airport until 2033 would need to be amended. The report from Toronto's deputy city manager proposes to implement the growth plan before the parties would decide whether to change it.

Billy Bishop airport serves 2.3 million passengers annually with its slots capped at 202 per day. That number could eventually grow to 3.8 million if unchecked, says the report.

The city proposes that passengers entering and leaving the airport be capped at 2.4 million per year in the first phase of the plan. It recommends limiting slots to 16 slots during peak times. Passengers entering and leaving the airport would be capped to 884 per hour with a daily slot cap of 202 during this phase under the recommendation.

In the second phase of growth, the annual passenger cap would be relaxed to 2.7 million and slots would be limited to 20 during peak hours. Passengers transiting through the airport would be limited to 1,178 per hour and the daily slot cap would remain at 202.

City staff continues to recommend that a decision on the Porter proposal wait until 2015 so it has time to work with the Toronto Port Authority and Transport Canada on deciding how it would implement several changes to support the plan, including a proposed extension of the airport runway and measures to mitigate traffic and noise.The CSeries is also scheduled to be certified in 2015.

That final report would come after implementing the second phase of the growth plan, and recommended traffic limits for the third phase would be determined later on.

Today, Porter Airlines occupies 172 slots at Billy Bishop for flights with its Bombardier Dash 8 Q400 turboprops. Air Canada uses the remaining 30 slots for flights to Montreal through partner Sky Regional with the same aircraft type.

Porter’s chief executive Robert Deluce says the report is a "solid step forward" but underscores that the recommendations need to be addressed “in a timely manner.”

“Flight and passenger caps recommended in the report are stringent,” he says. “We support caps in principle, but believe they require further discussion,” he says. “To proceed with our aircraft order, we need greater certainty regarding timelines and look forward to discussions at executive committee and city council."