The Friday Rant: Vote “Nay” To The Island Airport Expansion

I’ve been back and forth with my opinions on this for a while now.

I realized that I’ve flip-flopped, then flipped, then flopped, but after flapping, and then flooping, I’ve finally decided to vote “nay” to this project.

Wait…..I don’t get a vote?  Then what was that phone call to my home for?  A “survey?”  Dammit…


Somebody in my office saw me typing this blog post and said, “I couldn’t possibly care less what they do with that airport.”

I think that’s one of the stupidest things a Torontonian could say.

You have to care about the potential airport expansion; you just have to.

Even you live in Forest Hill, and you think you won’t be affected by this, you will be – in one way or another.

Before I opine on the subject, here’s an excerpt from Guy Dixon’s column in the Globe & Mail the other day that explains how, apparently, most Torontonians feel:


By: Guy Dixon
The Globe & Mail

A new survey shows Toronto residents are divided in their response to a proposal to operate jet aircraft from the downtown Toronto Islands airport.

A telephone survey commissioned by the city concluded that “half of Torontonians say that an expanded airport with jets does not fit with the revitalized waterfront, and Toronto residents living in the waterfront area are most likely to say that the airport does not fit.”

The plan to expand the airport and use jet aircraft had the support of 47 per cent of those surveyed, while 45 per cent were opposed.

The survey was released on Tuesday as part of a staff update for the city’s executive committee, which is debating proposals by the Toronto Port Authority and Porter Airline to extend a runway at Billy Bishop Toronto City Airport and operate Bombardier CS100 jets.

The city survey found that the concerns of people who live near the airport dwelt mostly on the environmental impact on the lakeshore and increased traffic congestion in the area at the foot of Bathurst Street.


When I first heard about the idea for airport expansion, I had my doubts, but thought that overall it was a good idea.  The airport itself is a great idea, and the flights are super convenient, and make travelling to New York, Montreal, or Chicago, for business or pleasure, a breeze compared to Pearson.

But the more I thought about it, the more I came to realize that this isn’t about the convenience, once a year, for each of us (probably less, on average), of saving 45 minutes, $20 in gas or cab fare, and a bit of frustration from waiting in line.

This is about the city as a whole, and more specifically, the downtown core.

Toronto’s downtown core, despite all of its positives, is a failure, in my eyes.  At least at the moment, but it doesn’t have to be, going forward.

Downtown Toronto is far too dense, and far too congested, in terms of the number of people living in such a small area, and the amount of traffic, both automobile, and pedestrian.

I know that “other cities” around the world are far more dense.  Shanghai, has a population of 37,000,000 people living in 6,340 square-KM (5,836 per sqKM), whereas Toronto pales in comparison: 5,583,000 people living in 7,125 square-KM (784 per sqKM).

But we have to put things in perspective, and consider Toronto as a Canadian city, or at the most, look at it from a north American perspective.

We have perhaps the worst infrastructure of all the metropolitan areas in North America, and as city council continues to argue about how to build a subway extension, we residents, continue to suffer.

So what is my point to all of this?

What does the population of Shanghai have to do with anything?

I believe that to expand the Toronto island airport would only serve to put a band-aid on the real problems here, which are, in the most basic form:

1) Toronto’s Pearson International airport is inaccessible via public transit
2) Toronto’s highway system is not equipped to handle the city’s population of drivers
3) Traffic congestion in the downtown core is at an all-time high

Expanding Billy Bishop airport would cloud these three problems above, and draw attention away from them.

How many other world-class cities don’t have a public transport link from the airport to the downtown core?  Why don’t we have a subway that reaches Pearson?  Toronto’s residents have been talking about this since before I was born, and yet nothing has been done.

To allow jet aircrafts to depart and arrive to and from Billy Bishop airport would really just move some of the passengers from Pearson down to Toronto’s downtown waterfront, and not really address the problem that Pearson is inaccessible.

What’s worse, is that with bigger plans, more flights, and more passengers, there would be more cabs, more pick-ups, and more traffic at Bathurst & Queen’s Quay.  And, I mean, it’s not like traffic is moving at a steady pace down there – what with the construction on the roads, and the one-way traffic heading east…

New York has two airports – JFK and LaGuardia, both more or less in Queen’s (Jamaica for JFK, if you want to get really specific), and no more than 8-10KM apart.  But they have an intense series of freeways, a dynamite subway system, and their taxi-cab system is world famous.  As an aside, the series of one-way streets that you find in Manhattan, for example, helps to speed traffic flow, and reduce congestion.

Chicago’s smaller Midway International Airport is about 15-20KM from Chicago O’Hare, but do you think that either of these airports is inaccessible by streetcar, bus, or subway like Toronto’s Pearson?

As much as I love this city, I look out my window every day, and see that nothing is being done to move the city forward.  Condominium construction is out of control, and no new roads, freeways, bus stops, subway routes, or hot dog stands are being built in tandem to help support the massive amount of people moving into the downtown core each and every year.

I don’t know who to trust in this debate.  I never liked David Miller as a mayor, but he’s an opponent of the airport expansion, and I agree with most of what he says.

Then there’s the councilors that are in favor of the expansion, and I have to listen to crap like this from  Denzil Minnan-Wong:

“David Miller thought the island airport was going to be the end of the world eight or 10 years ago and we’ve seen nothing but huge development there — thousands and thousands of people wanting to live there,” he said.  “Mr. Miller clearly has a credibility problem in terms of what he said would happen and what has happened.”

It’s like this guy has never actually been downtown, but rather he’s seen photos of it, and read about it in the newspaper.

If by “thousands and thousands of people want to live there,” Mr. Minnan-Wong really means, “Investors from Asia & the Middle East have bought up crappy condos down there by the thousands, and renters in search of cheap rent, figuring, ‘I’m only going to be there a year, so who cares if I live in an awful area,’ have rented there in droves,” then I suppose he is correct.

I realize I haven’t even touched on the environmental issues with respect to increased flights and size of the aircrafts, nor have I talked about the noise.  That’s a whole other argument, but I feel that the issues I take to heart are enough on their own to say “no.”

Band-aids are not permanent; we learned this as children.

They may be the same color as our skin, and blend in to the point where they’re not noticeable from afar, but the result is always the same: they always peel off, and they always reveal the wound underneath.

Expanding the island airport is nothing more than a convenience to a handful of people, and I believe that it will could the real issues plaguing our city, and actually serve to hold back the city’s progress and expansion of infrastructure, which is the last thing we Torontonians can afford right now…


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  1. Sam says:

    How many people would take the TTC to the airport?

  2. DavidP says:

    1) I’ve taken both the Airport Express Bus from downtown as well as the TTC via Kipling to the airport many times. It’s fine. Nothing to write home about.
    2) I think it’s unfair to link the development of an airport to the lack of transit and infrastructure development when clearly Toronto doesn’t put the same pressure on condo developments to be cancelled for the same reasons. If we were to cancel things in the city based on systems at capacity, then I’m also against the Scarborough Subway Extension as well as the Richmond Hill Extension. Technically they’re both developments of the subway on lines already at capacity. If for some reason Toronto magically becomes a city where projects that are signed off can’t be cancelled willy nilly for random reasons by newly elected cohorts of politicians, then maybe there’s a stronger argument about how there’s nothing in the pipeline that is supporting the Billy Bishop Airport in terms of transit.

  3. BillyO says:

    Hey guys about the UP Express, I am involved in the development of the project. It’s currently on schedule for completion in 2015 just before the Pan-Am Games. In fact the station at Pearson is 75% done and the terminal station for downtown (at Simcoe and Station street, connecting to Union Station) will start construction soon.

    The train will have two stops along the way; one at Weston GO and the other at Bloor GO. Service improvements to the existing corridor has been underway for quite some time. Eventually we will see the Eglinton LRT extend out west. For now though we’ll have to wait 18 months to have this vital piece of infrastructure in place that has been long overdue

  4. AndrewB says:

    You mean Mississauga Pearson Airport? 😉

  5. IanC says:

    No Jets! Please and Thank you!!

    Give us a subway to the airport!! The Pearson Express will start out as Diesel, and they would have to charge around $30 to break even. That’s too high – considering you still have to get to your hotel by another shuttle, vs. the subway which is $3 thought not quite as fast.

    Yeah – we should have built a subway to the airport – Remember the Eglinton West subway that they cancelled to instead build a subway to Ikea?

    But it’s not too late! Let’s not make another mistake. We don’t have to give into Deluce and pave over the Toronto Harbour so he can just take business away from Pearson. There are too many implications. I can’t believe they can take decades to sort out public transportation to Pearson, but they want to rush this jets issue in a matter of weeks/months.

    Stop the insanity !

    Here are some things things people like share concerns about, that you will not here from the feds, Bombardier, or Mr. Deluce.

    1. Hal 9000 says:

      First off, referencing Now magazine on this is like asking InfoWars who shot JFK. To address their points in very short answers though:
      1) As a former pilot, Transport Canada is ALWAYS changing airport regs. Its a gov’t agency. Nothing would be built if this approach was taken. As a side note, 168m = 183.73 yds = 1.8373 NFL fields, or 1.31 fields if you include end zones (which are part of the field). The NOW hipster readers have likely never seen a football field, so I can;t really blame them, although they quote ‘4 football fields;’ Hence people use NOW to sop up puppy piss.

      2) The marine boundary lines will be redrawn as well as inbound approach routes. Standard practice in airport/port development.

      3) I’ve seen their books (although its stale) and work in the investment biz. Believe me, they have the capability to do this, easily. Unlike Air Canada, Porter is a net taxpayer. This is the last publication that should concern themselves on taxpayer dollars. Non issue here.

      4) See above. They lost 4mm in 2010 with a 47% load capacity. This was during the recession with lower fixed cost spread and a small route selection. THey have made money in 2011 and 2012 and paid dividends to the private holders.

      5) Dumb comment. That’s where fuselages are made. Bombardier is the only commercial aircraft man. in Canada. Lots of ancillary jobs are created when they manufacture and outsource some components.

      6) People said this in the mid 2000s before Porter ramped up. They were wrong. Our waterfront is a POS and this can only help if developed properly.

      7) Wrong. The CS100 Pratt and Whitneys produce about 70 db. Today’s best selling
      family of piston aircraft – the ultra modern piston engine Cirrus aircraft for instance, are NOISIER than almost EVERY modern business or regional jet and turboprop in existence at 73.6 to 72.1 db on take-off. A plethora of planes already at BB airport are already WAY louder than the CS100.

      8) See above. Carbon…hmmm…a reminder that the IPCC will release their new report today I think that says no warming in 17 years. Nonetheless, last time I checked we haven’t banned airplanes. Pollution is a fact of life, deal with it.

      9) Left wing rhetoric BS.

      10) like saying Manhattan could be a forest again one day. Well, it very well might be,,,,

      IanC – those typos of yours – clean that shit up man!! You work for Now, maybe?

      1. Joel says:

        @Hal 9000
        Well put!

      2. IanC says:

        Thank you HAL, I was wrong.

        Our waterfront is a piece of S*** as you say, and filling the harbour with concrete is the only way to save it.

        Oh – I thought Mr. Deluce fired his PR team and scrubbed the internet of this, but it is still here:

        There’s no BS in there! I had no idea that our harbour had too many waves!

        Are there any TRB readers from the boater community who can concur?

        1. ScottyP says:

          I live on the waterfront, have done so off and on for the last 15 years, and yes, by and large it is a complete POS.

          It’s a human tendency to romanticize from afar. I get it. But as someone living about 200m from its current flight path, I couldn’t care less if Billy Bishop Airport allows jets or extends its runway.

          If the average Torontonian wants to wax poetic about a neighbourhood they’ve likely visited once in the past 10 years (and this includes NOW editorial staff), who are we to stop them? Wax away, champs.

      3. ffjones23 says:

        Tal Hal 9000:

        I work in the investment business as well. I work with one of the best investment teams in the country. We’re talking about self-made, $100 millionaires/billionaires. And further, they are all honest, fair and generally good people. I’m guessing you work in securities brokerage, investment banking or private equity. I know what alot of these folks are like…..they make used car salesmen look like Mother Teresa….

        Anyhow, I am truly all about fair capitalism, balanced out with other interests. I’ve studied the whole Porter situation, read their prospectus, know a decent amount about the aviation industry, etc. And I agree much more with NOW’s article than I do your post. And the folks at my work…they all think it is crazy what is happening on the waterfront. And I think it is disgusting.

        The thing that gets me the most is the school and community centre that is opposite to the entrance of the airport. One of these days, a cab is going to hit and kill a child. But I’m guessing that Hal 9000 doesn’t give a flying fu** about this. A dead child? I guess it is a small sacrifice to be made so that some people can benefit either financially or otherwise….

        My God I just don’t understand how some people choose to live their lives….and how do they sleep at night? A very scary world indeed……

        1. Hal 9000 says:

          nope, buy side. Not sure how you threw PE into a basket with those 2 sell side roles. I generally agree with you regarding the “sales-iness” of 2 of those roles. But, I think you are trying to say that “I think you are a sleazy stock salesmen, therefore you are an evil Randian bastard and just don’t care”. Am I right? As outrageous as the claim I am deducing from what I think you are trying to do, But to extrapolate “sales-iness” to “Walter White morals” is un-f-ing believably idiotic. Are you trolling here?

          To get to the meat of it, you are saying that we should not build airports or anything that attracts taxis or cars (hotels, skyscrapers, condos, train stations, govt buildings…) if there are nearby schools because a vehicle may hit a child. I think you live in a Kafka-esque parallel universe to which there are no reprieves.

          Hal 9000 is an evil entity because he supports the local airport entering the 21st century. You would make a good council candidate.

          Do me a favour, go to google maps, toronto. Type “school”.

          We might as well go back to living in caves. Otherwise someone may be hurt.

        2. Hal 9000 says:

          In addition, the fact that you agree with NOW magazine’s patently incorrect (it’s science, bitch!) statements regarding aspects of the runway lengthening effectively reduces your credibility to something like that of our Dear Mayor’s currently…

        3. ScottyP says:

          Come on ffjones, get serious. There’s proper, rational debate, and then there’s indiscriminate mud-flinging. And no, they’re not the same thing. (Dead children? What?)

          This isn’t the comment section of the Grid; things are done a little differently here. Step up your game.

  6. RPG says:

    That’s a great DRAWING of a train going to the airport, and everybody on the website looks happy. But that’s really all it is.

  7. ScottyP says:

    Pearson is accessible by transit (the express bus via Kipling Station), but of course that option is far from ideal (especially with a couple suitcases in tow).

    As for Metrolinx Monstrosity’s “Union Station Express”, it should be an improvement but will it be built on schedule? And the NIMBYers are out in full force, from the choice to go diesel to the lack of aesthetics of the sound walls. I smell a white elephant.

    Plus, Pearson kinda sucks, ya know? I say band-aid away.

  8. Mooj says:

    How does having additional capacity for people to fly in and out of the city not move the city forward?

    How does having 1000s of people live in otherwise unused areas that were previously railyards not move the city forward?

    Yes, there are huge density, infrastructure and transportation challenges in Toronto, but doing nothing now in the hopes of doing something perfect later is exactly how this city got into the mess we’re in.

    Have you considered that perhaps you don’t really want to move the city forward?

  9. Qaf says:

    The current size of the airport is good for everyone in the area. The airport can do business and residents are happy. That neighbourhood is a great little pocket of the city, and there are a lot of families and kids – it really has the feeling of a safe and friendly community (where I live anyway). Also the waterfront should be shared by everyone, if we allow a transit hub to monopolize a section of it, is that fair to residents of the city?

    Also there’s like 5 million bikers and rollerbladers and pedestrians in that area due to proximity to the Martin Goodman trail so you can imagine the chaos.

  10. Hal 9000 says:

    The idea that: “Porter expansion bad, too many cars already on the road” is simplistic and misguided. If you are to extrapolate that idea, then in the name of progress, we should never build ahead of ourselves. Nothing would ever have been built in this case.

    Major infrastructure projects (including the airport) take decades and there are often windows of opportunity politically and financially during which they can be built. In this case its the GTAA, council, and the province that have to approve this. Arguably, this is an opportune time politically to push forward.

    I agree entirely on the frustration regarding traffic, transit etc. There are many quick ways that some relief could be had (reducing lane closure approvals do to condos, improving construction schedules, upgrading traffic lights to a smart neural network), and some very hard, long battles like the city is going through right now.

    My point is, you can;t have everything at once. I wish there was better infra to Porter, to Pearson and wherever. But one thing at a time.

    For the record, NYC has 3 airports as most of Newarks traffic services NYC. The infra/drive from Newark to Manhattan is often just heart wrenchingly awful btw,

    1. jeff316 says:

      Reducing his argument to ““Porter expansion bad, too many cars already on the road” is mischaracterization.

      Extrapolating that to “never building ahead of ourselves” is wrongheaded, because the expansion of the airport isn’t building ahead of ourselves.

      It is building from behind.

      And it is that building from behind that requires careful and comprehensive consideration of the effects of the expansion on existing infrastructure.

      Because you’re absolutely right – projects take years and there are only certain windows of opportunity. So we need to be sure that the existing infrastructure can handle any increased load from the Porter expansion, because no new infrastructure is going to be built there for the next 20 years.

      So we need to be sure that the effect of this project is net beneficial before going ahead. And we need to consider which windows will come more frequently – windows to expand the airport, or windows to expand local infrastructure around the airport? Dismissing the negatives as something that can be dealt with later, either through small actions or big projects TBD later is the epitome of bad planning.

      It’s that “one thing at a time” attitude is exactly what’s gotten us into our current transit/transportation mess.

      That’s not a case for nixing the expansion. But we need to consider the negatives within the current context, and assume the current context is the future context because the history of this city has shown us that today’s status quo is never an immediate-term proposition.

      1. @ Jeff316

        “Building from behind” is a good way of putting it.

        Perhaps that’s my problem with all of this.

        Mooj suggested below, “Perhaps you don’t want this city to move forward,” but it’s not that. It’s that the expansion of the city via condos and people living downtown is far, far exceeding the expansion of the city in terms of the infrastructure to support it.

        1. Mooj says:

          I agree David, it’s a terrible situation right NOW. But sometimes the cart has to come before the horse. Toronto has a terrible track record of trying to build infrastructure in anticipation of demand. (St. Clair streetcar, Sheppard subway).

          I guess you can say I subscribe to the Field of Dreams version of City Planning,”If you build it, they (the infrastructure) will come”

      2. Hal 9000 says:

        It’s not a mischaracterization at all. Zero sum game. People to move, conduits to move them. Period. Unless you are taking about wishy washy stuff like squatters and noise. Both of which myself and most Torontonians don’t feel are an important issue w regard to the runway lengthening.

        You realize how asinine your comment is about ‘ahead/behind’ you wrote right? Is the hare ahead of the turtle or is the turtle behind the hare? Without getting into a discussion of string theory and theoretical physics, they are one and the same. Therefore, there are 3 ways to build infrastructure to “stuff” (don’t forget, airports are infrastructure, but I will ignore that for now): 1) Build the stuff first. Then the infrastructure to get there more easily. Basically how NOrth America was developed. Cities before roads before planes before Elon Musk’s HyperTube thing. (2) INfra before “stuff”. Never happens, except occasionally in screwed up bureaucracy led FUBARs…IE the Iqualit road to nowhere (3) they are built simultaneously. This is also pretty rare. Happens sometimes, think Olympics (but is that stuff useful long term?). But think about the post mortem here: Montreal Expo debt, the debt Olympic host countries take on.

        The reality here, Geoff with a J, is that EVERY project to advance this city (including the construction closures I bitch about for condo dvlpmt) will have -ve consequences with regard to traffic and congestion. This includes projects to improve the transportation infrastructure! (look up the plan for the Allen going forward).

        Sidenote, when you saw “we need to decide what…” what does that mean? Who is we? Is we David Miller building the abortion that is the St. Clair Streetcar? Is we the city authorities that could aid traffic flow by up to 28% without a shovel by optimizing street lights but havent done so? Is we David Miller squashing the bridge to Porter for interest group and ideological reasons?

        The things you are saying, “we need to determine the net benefit…” are the last things in the world that our useless, idiotic council and bureaucrats are capable of determining. these are 10, 20, 40, 100 year decisions to be made by people that are concerned about the next 2-3 years. My point being, that in 1980, you sat down with city planners, and GAVE them data on problems we have here in 2013 (ie the holy grail) they STILL wouldn’t be able to make the correct decisions. It is depressing, but it is the truth.

        1. jeff316 says:

          Wow, you got cranky quick.

          It is a mischaracterization because you know that David is not arguing from a NIMBY and BANANA standpoint. He’s not opposing the expansion just based on personal and temporary inconveniences. He’s thinking long-term.

          People move, and conduits move them. And what we’re talking about here is an incomplete conduit. This isn’t Sim City. People don’t just go to an airport, and then disappear. We need to think about how to get them from A to Z, not just A to B (how’s that for asinine?)

          Cost-benefit or net benefit are both readily accepted means of assessing projects. Part of that is including the area, its character, its needs, the impact of the development, need for additional infrastructure, etc and how this compares to the benefits the development will bring. That doesn’t mean the necessary infrastructure development needs to be built in advance of the development, or even at the same time, but it is planned for. It is basic planning and analysis – method number 4 for building infrastructure.

          The problem is that this issue isn’t about city building – as you’ve made it obvious from your comments on Miller, the bridge, St Clair, and city council. It’s not about moving forward.

          This is an ideological spat between two sets of people who feel disenfranchised, both left and right, that want something to cling to, something to fight for, and something to finally win, more than they want the actual outcome.

          1. AndrewB says:

            It’s about lack of city building.

            I agree there is no long term vision it seems for the city. Our waterfront is far from successful and the valuable land space there isn’t used to it’s full potential. The transit system is running beyond full capacity and it’s suffering. There needs to be more investment, but where is the money going to come from? Everyone wants more and more services, yet whine and moan about tax increase. I do believe however, that services aren’t maximized in efficiency for the tax dollars spent and some LEAN principles could be put into place.

            What it boils down to is that Toronto is far from becoming a world-class city. If I lived in another part of the world, I wouldn’t visit Toronto personally. There’s nothing that attracts the world here. We have one theme park (which is actually in Vaughan), a waterfall (not in Toronto either), a few museums and a zoo? We need more to bring people in and attract the world. We need something to be proud of and feel that the city can expand into something great. We’ll never get to NYC status, but I hope that we can someday move closed to being NYC-status.

          2. Hal 9000 says:

            I just re-read that 3 times and I don;t think you are really saying anything other than that Dave is discussing the long term and its political.

            I’m also discussing the long term. In the long term, Toronto needs another airport with more international routes. And Pickering probably needs an int’l airport. And that is probably happening.

            Moving forward is a meaningless term. Making bad decisions sets progress backward. While you seem to have construed my comments on St. Clair W etc as political, you are forgetting that HAL is logical, and each of these decisions has set progress backwards. Why? because they don;t work, and it has polarized the political process.

            It’s not necessarily ideological. The decisions they have made don;t work.

            To be fair, a ‘selfish’ determination of cost-benefit is the only effective mechanism in a representative democracy. Politicians do not have our best interests at stake, nor do bureaucratic committees, etc. You’re kidding yourself if you think otherwise..

  11. Jeremy says:


    A couple of errors in this post.

    I’ve lived in New York, and have used all three airports (the third being Newark) which is a short train ride away. JFK is accessible by Subway, but Laguardia is not, you have to take a bus.

    Toronto airport is accessible by TTC- there is an express bus from Kipling station.

    1. @ Jeremy

      An express bus from Kipling station? Really?

      How about getting on the subway at Yonge & Front, and getting to the airport?

      THAT is what I’m talking about.

      A BUS from KIPLING? Can’t Toronto do better?

      1. Jeremy says:

        @ David: you said “Toronto’s Pearson International airport is inaccessible via public transit”.

        Which is simply not true. For the price of a subway token, you can get to the airport from any point in the city. From my place near Bloor and Lansdowne my choices are take the TTC, it takes about an hour for about $3, or I take a cab that will take about 30 minutes and cost $50. Is 30 minutes of my time worth $47? In this case I’d say so.

        When I travel with my girlfriend, I spring for the cab though.

        I totally agree, they should extend the subway to Pearson, JFK was my favorite airport in NY, and Heathrow in London for the same reason, but that’s not happening any time soon.

  12. Geoff says:

    @ Arthur – I have a flight tomorrow at 2pm. What station do I pick that train up from?

  13. Arthur Market says:

    David, are you seriously not aware of this?

    1. a) When is that going to be ready?
      b) Why has it taken this long to address the problem?
      c) see above

    2. Zac says:

      @ Arthur, and did you know it will cost $20-25 per person one way. And did you know not everything lives close to Union or Dundas West station. You expected people in North York or Scarborough to drag their luggage, climb the stairs up and down all the way to Union station, and then pay $25 to Pearson?
      this express is a failure before it is even completed.