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PIA, adequate but in need of a facelift
Nov 09, 2001 05:12 AM 4388 Views
(Updated Nov 09, 2001 05:14 AM)

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In the past few years I've written, on many venues, reviews and comments on all the various airports that I've travelled through as I flit about the world. All that is except one. For some reason I have yet to cover the single one airport I have visited more than all others combined. I speak of course of Toronto's Pearson International Airport (PIA). The point from which I have started and ended so many of my adventures in the past few years.


PIA is named after the former Canadian statesman, Prime Minister, and Nobel Peace Prize Winner, Lester B. Pearson. It is the main airport servicing the Greater Toronto Airport. There are two smaller commuter airports also in the city.


PIA at present has two main runways and three main passenger terminals as well as all the assorted other facilities including a major cargo handling facility. The original small Terminal One and the larger Terminal two are used by the main Canadian carrier Air Canada and its various affiliate and partner airlines. Terminal One is rather small and ancient. Prior to the last airport reorganisation it was mainly used by the smaller regional and charter airlines only.


Terminal Two built in the 1970's for Air Canada is a lengthy concrete structure. Critics of it, myself included, argue that is was poorly built and laid out. Moving through is not unlike moving through a maze, both bureaucratic and physical.


Terminal Three was a state of the art modern terminal built by and for Canadian Airlines prior to that airline going under and being absorbed by it's rival Air Canada. It is bright ,modern, well laid out, and equipped with all the latest conveniences. Amongst these are the attached Sheraton Hotel reached by a sky walk from the terminal. At present Terminal Three is used by Canada 3000 and the various charter airlines that used to operate out of terminal One. They seem quite happy with their new home.


Both Terminals One and Two are scheduled for closing and demolition in the near future. Construction has already commenced on the massive new terminal building that will replace both of them and service Air Canada. When it and other related improvements are completed it is estimated that the amount of traffic PIA will be able to handle will double.


PIA is overall a well run and efficient airport. There are however two weakness inherent in it. First is the fact that a midnight curfew is imposed on all flying operations. Aside from a few charter flights and emergencies of course, nothing may land or take off after 12:00 am. This seriously curtails some international operations.


The second and more important factor is the lack of a direct transit link to the downtown core. PIA sits on the outskirts of Toronto, actually in nearby Peel Region. it is in the middle of the light industrial and suburbs belt that has surrounded the city.


There are plenty of taxis and limos available at all three terminals. A run downtown should take 30-45 minutes depending on traffic and cost $35-40.00 Canadian. There is also a company that runs 24 hour shuttle bus service to several downtown hotels. Cost is about $12.00 one way, or $20.00 return.


Both the TTC (Toronto Transit Commission) and the regional GO Transit systems do offer bus connections from the airport to the subway lines or other transit hubs. The service however is infrequent and minimal.


There has been continual talk of a light rail link to the downtown core by all three levels of Government. However since the loss of the of the 2008 Olympic bid, it has been nothing but that, talk.


When the new terminal comes on line in a couple of years and the traffic severely increases then this lack of a transit link to the city will be really noticed. The two 400 series super highways that run near and service PIA will soon become Toronto's newest and largest parking lots.


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