Should Edmonton close the Edmonton City Centre Airport?

edmonton-city-centre-airportShould Edmonton city council close the Edmonton City Centre Airport? This is the questions facing council today, after much debate.

I’ve only been in Edmonton since early 2008 and I’ve sat on the sidelines of this debate listening to both sides. I really haven’t had an opinion on it until recently because I wanted to get both sides before deciding.

I’ve listened to the each case and I believe that Edmonton city council should make the decision to close Edmonton City Centre Airport (ECCA).

I understand the argument for having scheduled service available right inside the city limits, but it seems that was decided in the 90s to consolidate scheduled passenger service at Edmonton International Airport (YEG). Makes sense because there’s absolutely no room to grow at ECCA, nor would it make sense to split scheduled passenger service between Edmonton’s airports. Making connections to different airlines would be a nightmare.

Mack Male has been blogging about the issue quite a lot lately and started the website NotMyAirport.ca. Check out this video with him debating about closing ECCA.

So, who does the ECCA serve now? It seems that it’s private pilots, charters, medevac flights and flight schools. Of course there are a number of businesses related to the operation of ECCA that rely on it, including a number of hotels.

It’s never easy to make a big decision to close this type of facility and not one to take lightly. While I am in favour of closing the airport, despite the negative impacts it may have on the businesses related to it, I believe that it will be a positive thing for Edmonton in the long term.

Benefits to closing ECCA

  • NAIT will have room to expand
  • Taller buildings in downtown Edmonton – Edmonton’s had height restrictions on its buildings due to safety issues related to the airport. Taller buildings around Edmonton will allow for greater density of development. The benefit? Perhaps this will alleviate some of the sprawl Edmonton is notorious for.
  • Development – imagine the amount of economic activity that would be generated by developing an area larger than Edmonton’s downtown. Alberta’s still got one of the strongest economies in North America and it would have one of the hottest development areas in the world too. Vancouver experienced a huge boom in development with the Expo lands redevelopment. There will also be economic activity created by the businesses moving from their locations at the ECCA.
  • Certainty – by finally putting the issue to rest, the city can focus on what is going to happen with the ECCA land. While it will cause consternation among users of the airport and those who rely on it economically, it will also (I think) excite the rest of the city about the possibilities the land could be used for.

Caveats

edmonton-mapWhile I am in favour of ECCA’s closure, I wonder if the current Edmonton city council is the right council to lead the charge to redevelop the Edmonton City Centre Airport lands.

Redeveloping Edmonton’s City Centre Airport lands would be a huge job and I would hope that council would get a lot of community input on it. I would also hope that they would take the windfall from selling off and developing those lands and maybe do something like, oh, I don’t know, build an LRT extension to the airport?

Looking at a map, the area of the ECCA is larger than Edmonton’s downtown. This is a rare opportunity to create something great, so we need to make sure it’s done right. That opportunity we’ll never see again.

We need people on council with vision. Do we have that now? I can’t comment with any authority there. What do you think? I look at the state of Edmonton now and wonder, who do we blame for the absolutely stupid sprawl, ridiculously limited LRT, etc?

I hope council makes the right decision and closes the airport completely. The spineless route would be the phased route. I understand the rationale is to give businesses time to adjust and relocate, but if the lands are going to be redeveloped, then just do it.

Edmonton moves forward by closing ECCA

There is some speculation that the decision won’t be made today, and I think that’s fair. It’s a big decision and better that it be an informed one than not. Ultimately though, the decision needs to be made to close the airport entirely, not in phases. Edmonton needs to move ahead.

(Related post: Summer 2010 – With the city moving ahead with its decision to close ECCA – Edmonton Centre Airport & Envision Edmonton calling for a plebiscite, there’s a debate on again about what should happen to ECCA.)