Making it easier to cross the border will have huge economic benefits for WNY

The federal government over-regulates nearly everything, and the northern border with our largest trading partner is no exception.  But making it easier to traverse this international boundary line will have enormous economic impacts for both nations, but for the economically hard-strapped region of Western New York in particular.

Here are a few ways that Western New York’s economy can benefit more robustly from better cross-border transportation.

Small twin-engine commuter flights to Ellicottville during ski season 

Toronto is a city with a long winter, and full of people with a love of winter sports.  But skiing in Canada is mostly a western thrill — in Alberta and British Columbia, where a rugged landscape allows for the world’s best.  That requires a cross country flight to Vancouver or Calgary, coupled with a multi-hour drive into the Canadian Rockies.

But the closest ski country to Canada’s two principal cities — Toronto and Montreal — are the Adirondack and the Allegany mountains, where the two primary destinations for skiing are Lake Placid and Ellicottville.

Canadians want to ski and love to ski, but traveling from the GTA to Ellicottville would take 2.5 hours, plus whatever wait time is required at customs.  Driving from Toronto to Lake Placid would take 5.75 hours.  It’s enough to deter the average adventurist or to at least reduce the number of times he embarks on a trip.

Twin-engine planes can operate far more economically than jets, which consume expensive amounts of fuel.  They only fly at about half the speed as a jet engine (around 250 miles per hour), which could be ideal in serving a certain sweet-spot of traveler.  Twin-engine commuter planes operate at an ideal scale for price-sensitive travel, usually seating around 50 passengers, with an ability to price tickets exceptionally low — especially on a short jaunt.

A flight from Toronto to Ellicottville would be about 100 miles (or about 25 minutes).  At prices around $50, the service can be made profitable with sufficiently full planes.  Perhaps resorts like Holiday Valley and Holimont would even be inclined to package the low-budget air travel for their growing volume of Canadian visitors.

International flights from the Niagara Falls Airport

In recent months, much has been discussed relating to the desirability of rail travel to Toronto, and more broadly, the economic benefits of transit connectivity with the GTA.  Perhaps most catalytic among those many economic impacts would be increased usage of Western New York’s airports by Canadian travelers.

Both the Niagara Falls International Airport and the Buffalo Niagara International Airport could enjoy massive influxes of new users if cross-border transit — and perhaps even the GO Transit system itself — were linked to the two airports’ passenger terminals.

The opportunity could be particularly transformative at the Niagara Falls International Airport, which is located just five minutes from the border and sits next to a railway link to downtown Toronto.  The runway can land the largest of transcontinental flights, and even with a small terminal, the airport has plenty of unused capacity.

The facility is geographically positioned to serve as Toronto’s second international airport, while also serving international visitors to the Niagara region itself.  That the New York City area has met its capacity constraint for international flights, the opportunity for transcontinental travel to and from Niagara Falls has never been more plausible.


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