From wings to rail
LRT to the airport is an economic booster Ottawa can’t do without
Whenever he visits another city such as Vancouver, Mark Laroche takes rapid rail transit from the airport to his destination.
It’s fast, it’s convenient and it’s a hallmark of a truly world-class city.
“This is a vital piece of infrastructure that Ottawa should have as the capital of a G7 nation,” said the President and CEO of the Ottawa Airport Authority.
A Light Rail Transit link to the Ottawa Airport’s main terminal as part of the Phase 2 build has long been on the table, but getting it done is far from assured.
Finalized City of Ottawa staff recommendations for a southbound extension of the existing O-Train line were presented to the City’s transportation committee in June. A spur line that would connect to the airport’s terminal is among those recommendations, but this, along with the rest of the Phase 2 plan, can’t proceed until suitable funding is secured from the other levels of government.
Ottawa Mayor Jim Watson has already stated that a spur line to the airport can’t be a bottleneck for daily commuters, or a cost that is shouldered entirely by the city.
Which is fine by Laroche. His team understands that the needs of the collective must come first and it’s ready to work with the City on a creative way that would allow the Airport to contribute to the cost of the project in some fashion.
“The Airport Authority, however, should not be footing the bill, any more than any other business entity in the city would be expected to carry the cost of new infrastructure that serves the community,” Laroche said.
The Authority already does its part by paying its municipal taxes, employing 5,000 people with plans to grow and hire more, and paying about $8 million a year to the federal government through its lease of lands from Transport Canada.
It’s about the local economy, not the airport
“We are a private not-for-profit corporation, a tax-paying economic generator that serves the whole city,” said Laroche. “An LRT connection to our terminal doesn’t provide any financial benefit to the Airport Authority, but it would for the community as a whole with more transportation options to and from the airport.”
Better transportation links to the airport will pay dividends for the city’s tourism industry and the meeting and convention business—priority areas for City Hall and Ottawa Tourism.
And now is the time to get it done, to take advantage of the economies of scale and cost savings that come of being part of a larger project that already has shovels in the ground.
“I hope the city will continue to support this project and not carve it off,” Laroche said. “I am confident that Mayor Watson and City Council will continue to support this project as an essential part of LRT Stage 2 and that both the provincial and federal governments will support it financially `If we miss this opportunity, we miss out at providing world-class infrastructure for a world-class city. I don’t want to be an airport that is still trying to get this done 20 years from now and lagging far behind other Canadian and North American cities.”
Laroche and his team are primed and ready to work with the City to get the project done in a manner that is practical, economical and, most importantly, fair, for all stakeholders.
“A business case built on ridership with the airport and South Ottawa works,” he said. “If it didn’t, we wouldn’t be involved with this project.”
“If we miss this opportunity, we miss out at providing world-class infrastructure for a world-class city.”
-- Mark Laroche