Porter Air has been busy lately courting the Toronto Arts community. The airline has forged a partnership with the Toronto Symphony on a special promotion offering free trips to New York to see the TSO play Carnegie Hall. Other arts organizations have been offered free tickets for their staff to fly to Montreal and Ottawa. These freebies serve the double purpose of filling Porter’s empty seats and making the company look like a generous, arts-friendly corporate citizen.
It’s an excellent business strategy for Porter. But it’s not good for the city.
By the spring of 2008 Porter will be operating more than fifty flights a day out of the Island airport. That means planes taking off and landing every few minutes a short distance from Harbourfront, one of the city’s top cultural destinations. Aircraft noise has already proven to be a serious disruption for concerts at the Music Garden, the acclaimed waterfront performance venue designed by world-famous cellist YoYo Ma. With the increase in air traffic at the Island airport, the problem will likely be worse for the Music Garden’s upcoming season.
Many members of Community Air are artists, and we know that arts organizations are chronically cash-strapped and struggle to stay afloat. But we ask that, when Porter comes calling with offers of freebies, they consider the impact on the city as a whole. Train travel is the green alternative to short-haul flights. Even driving to Ottawa or Montreal is far better for the environment – one Q400 flight produces greenhouse gases equivalent to 400 cars travelling the same distance. A vibrant, beautiful, people-friendly waterfront is vital to the cultural life of Toronto.