AIRPORTS: From sky to ground, Toronto Pearson looks to become a hub of it all

  • Toronto’s Lester B. Pearson airport is Canada’s largest aviation hub, handling an estimated 47 million passengers in 2017
  • The airport is planning to become a second ground transportation hub in the Greater Toronto Area
  • Union Station West project would link rail, bus passengers from across the region
Transit_Map-800x370 Pearson

A plan showing Pearson airport as a second ground transportation hub in the Toronto region. The U represents increasingly crowded Union Station downtown. (Pearson airport)

You would think that an airport expecting to handle almost 50 million passengers this year might have enough on its plate keeping all those people happy, but Toronto’s Pearson airport is increasingly turning its attention to the millions of people who pass outside its doors, every day.

The airport is pitching to become a second transit hub for the Toronto region, connecting air passengers with busses and trains destined for points right across the region.

It wasn’t so long ago that getting to Pearson on public transit was an ordeal, starting with a local bus route. Over the years, getting from the city centre to the airport got easier, first with an express bus from the end of the subway line, then with an express train to downtown Toronto with the opening of the UP Express train in 2015.

Similar improvements have been added to other municipalities in the area, including a new express bus from nearby Mississauga, launched in October.

A UP Express train leaves Toronto’s Pearson airport (photo: Rick Radell/UP Express)

Those new routes potentially open up airport jobs to a new pool of workers, whose commute is faster and easier. As many as 49,000 people work at or near the airport as part of a 24/7 operation.

Now, the airport wants to make it simple to get to municipalities across the region, touting its vision at a recent conference of green businesses at Pearson.

“We have a vision for a passenger facility that could also serve as a second major ground mobility hub for the region,” – Todd Ernst, Director of Aviation Infrastructure, Energy and Environment

The plan would mean thousands of people would no longer have to pass through downtown Toronto on their commutes, avoiding congestion at Union Station.

The airport has hired consulting company HOK to design the facility and is pitching regional mayors on the plan, hoping to convince decision-makers to send more bus routes Pearson’s way. A study suggests creating a transit hub would reduce traffic congestion and allow for the creation of 15,000 – 30,000 new jobs in the airport area alone.

“The Toronto Pearson regional transit centre represents the marriage of aviation and ground transit,” said Robert Chicas, AIA, director of Aviation + Transportation at HOK, said in a release when his company was hired this spring.

Pearson airport expects the first phase of its transit hub to open in the late 2020s.

By 2037, Pearson expects to handle up to 87 million air passengers a year.

Lester B. Pearson airport in Toronto is Canada’s largest hub. (photo: GTAA)