Is Edmonton's "other" airport at risk of closing?

Post by Daniel Fontaine in

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The great debate rages on whether Edmonton should close its downtown airport

I spent many years living in Edmonton in the 1970-80's. I was there when Wayne Gretzky walked on water and helped deliver the Stanley Cup year after year. I think it's a great city with a tradition of community spirit. There is one other big reason to like Edmonton - the downtown airport.

I have never been a fan of the Edmonton International Airport which is located so far south of the city, you may as well call it the Calgary International Airport. Its isolated location makes it very unattractive to the business community, for whom time is money. If you have meetings in downtown Edmonton, your trip in and out of the city can be in excess of an hour in rush hour.

That's why Edmonton's downtown airport is so great. Your plane lands, and you're only a few minutes away from your destination by foot or taxi. But there appears to be a growing movement in Edmonton to shut the airport down and force everyone to use the more isolated international airport - even for short haul flights that don't need this type of facility. I somehow doubt this campaign to shut the airport will succeed.

Vancouver has a similar downtown airport, but it comes in the form of Coal Harbour and the many float planes that call it home. It has grown by leaps and bounds over the last decade, and it too has become the subject of some controversy. Some of the local condo dwellers who recently purchased there have complained of the noise the float planes make during take off and landing. But for the most part, the Coal Harbour airport is now a part of the Vancouver landscape and has in itself become a bit of a tourist attraction.

I stumbled upon a post by blogger Darren Barefoot who writes about the long-standing debate whether Edmonton actually needs a downtown airport. He provides a number of good links to both the pro and con side of the debate.

There is a group called who would like to see the airport turned into a "a new transit-oriented green community". Their website is pretty sparse, so don't expect to gather much information from it other than they are opposed to the airport. You can get a bit more information if you to Mack Male's site. He's the fellow behind the campaign. He states:

The discussion about what to do with the City Centre Airport has largely been monopolized by the pro-Muni crowd. A majority of the speakers at last week’s public hearings were either in favor of the status quo or of expanding scheduled service at ECCA. I suppose that shouldn’t be a surprise – supporters of the City Centre Airport have the most to lose in this debate. It makes sense that they would put time and money into making their positions known.

I’ve just launched I have two primary goals with the site. First, I want to ensure that facts and arguments in favor of closing the City Centre Airport can easily be found and shared. Second, I hope to encourage as many Edmontonians as possible to contact City Council to urge them to vote in favor of closure.

I’m not sure how much of an impact the site will have, especially considering we’re just a week away from a potential Council decision on the matter. That said, it didn’t take very long to create (as you can tell by the simple design) and I’m continually amazed at how quickly people can mobilize via the Internet. If you have feedback/suggestions for the site, let me know.

This doesn’t level the playing field, of course, but it’s something - anyone out there want to pay for some billboards?

On the other side of the debate are the folks. Their site looks a tad better organized and they state:

The ECCA plays a vital role in making Edmonton one of Canada’s leading health centres, as a hub for air ambulance and other essential health services for all of Alberta, the Northwest Territories, British Columbia and Saskatchewan.

It contributes to the safety and security of our province. The Edmonton Police Service, RCMP and the Canadian Forces are all major users of the facility.

The ECCA also provides a competitive advantage over other cities and helps to attract investment and jobs.

Summed up, the airport is an essential component for the long term success of Alberta’s Capital Region.

The site is run by the ;Alberta Enterprise Group. Here's what they state on their website:

We represent the following industries: Accounting, automotive, communications, computer software, construction, electrical, engineering, energy, financial services, grocery, hi-tech medical, home building, industrial supply chain, insurance, legal, manufacturing, project management, property development/management, real estate, restaurant, steel, tourism, transportation.

I think it would be a real shame if the downtown airport ended up closing down. I haven't used it myself in well over a decade, but I know people who do and they swear by it. I'm all for green, walkable neighbourhoods, but getting rid of a downtown airport that reduces the need to make lengthy car trips to a more distant airport doesn't sound green to me.

Perhaps what the city should do is begin a complete rezoning of their downtown to allow for more residential towers to be built closer to where the jobs are. There are still lots of empty lots whereby this could be done in the downtown core. This way you can keep your airport and actually have people live closer to where they work. Sounds like a plan to me.

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I've conducted a critical review of the 45 main arguments raised over the past year about this matter, and 42 of the 45 issues favour keeping the Edmonton City Centre Airport open; the remaining 3 are a draw.

To see the analysis, go to:

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