I Want A Pony

Everybody has a transit plan these days. Even if it ain’t worth the paper it’s printed on, nothing stops an endless deluge of photo ops. Look at me! Look at the wonderful things I am doing for YOU!

I am not a Mayor nor a Minister, and the likelihood of my getting a series of photo ops beyond selfies (and never mind that page in the Globe) is rather small.

My needs are simple. My demands are few.

I just want a pony.

This will bring inevitable cries that precious resources desperately needed by the horsey sector out there in suburbia are being diverted to downtown.

There will have to be a regional plan where ponies are included as a potential transit mode. Funding will be required. Environmental assessments. Business cases. Demand models.

Consultants will grow rich studying the (re-)integration of four legged motive power into our transit mix while lobbyists, indistinguishable from used car salesmen, who will show us how the byproduct of this new(old) technology can solve all of our energy needs.

Mayoral candidates will saddle up to endorse the scheme, along with their cohorts, a motley band of planners who cannot read maps, professors who grade on any curve as long as it results in an A+, and financiers who claim that equine transport will be self-financing.

There will be an election. There are always elections. Every party will jump on the bandwagon saying that swan boats are outdated. Fie on old technology that doesn’t give the voters what they need, nay, what they deserve!

Politicians will discover that well-trained ponies can be “self-guiding” and take riders to and fro without the need for a driver. A provincial agency will be created to harness this stunning new development! Its first hires will be a photographer and a publicist.

The feds might even concoct a Pony Transportation Investment Fund.

But I just want a pony, and I want it NOW.

Alas, it cannot be. It is the process, the claims, the studies and above all the photo ops on which the transport world turns, not on actual delivery. We might even see a new pony barn built, but reining in taxes will prevent any actual ponies from cluttering up the civic plans and budgets.

55 thoughts on “I Want A Pony

  1. Jonathan has really hit on the correct approach, an opinion Steve will fully appreciate since he knows I’ve always supported all things feline. I’ve run this by my resident feline, Peake, who is now in the throes of starting his pony-alternative campaign using cat power. As Peake notes, the fact that cats run in all directions and can’t be herded into accepting a single plan fits the bill perfectly because politicians, not wanting to offend one voter or another, will always opt for soothing statements aimed to stroke all viewpoints and even approve the funding of multi-year studies to satisfy all of them.


  2. Hamish’s elephant option is good. That way the politicians can give truth to that old joke about the postwar conference in India. Following a daylong elephant safari into the countryside, the chair asked all the national delegates to write their impressions of what they had seen and how it applied to their own situations as representatives of the great nations from around the globe. The Canadian delegate’s paper was titled “Elephants: Are they a federal, provincial or municipal responsibility?” Sure sounds like the contemporary transit scene.


  3. The transit vehicle could be a Sparkle Dog My Little ICTS Pony, either that or the odd 1970s Logan’s Run personal rapid transit guideway that stil sits out at the Metro Toronto Zoo. I never really understood why Scarborough wound up with two odd bits of breakable futuristic 1970s Logan’s Run toy trains. The only thing missing would be modified souped up CLRVs flying past people’s back yards in Scarborough and the countryside over to Pickering Airport, to say nothing of the other Crass Maffei, I mean Krauss Maffei ‘lev toy train. ; )


  4. Speaking of ponies and other selfish pie in the sky ideas, the Chinese are apparently starting to build out low-speed maglev trains to fill the role of subways in the suburbs (like, say, the Scarborough Subway Extension). The Chinese build a lot of infrastructure, and they found that subways to the suburbs are too expensive, but other alternatives like LRT or monorail are too slow. It seems that the low-speed maglev trains can be built relatively cheaply like monorails while being reasonably quick because of the magnetic levitation (I guess since they’re “low-speed,” they’s a much greater safety tolerance too). That would totally be my pony.

    Steve: With the caveat that as long as people like elevated structures over their roads, you might be able to sell that. The question of “too slow” often has to do with stop spacing and with the degree of priority a surface route is given over other traffic.


  5. I would like to note that wanting a pony seems actually much less unreasonable that wanting a subway. Reverting to cars drawn by horses less insane than attempting to build subway to Vaughan let alone Richmond Hill.


  6. Steve will get his pony from the Mayor in the end, only to have it uploaded to Queen’s Park by a PC government and replaced with a donkey between 7 pm and 6 am.

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  7. In keeping with modern trends in transportation would the ponies be self-driving?

    Steve: It is a well-known fact that members of this family learn their regular routines and some need only minimal supervision. This might, however, limit the ponies to specific routes rather like the UPX trains that are doomed to shuttle endlessly from Union to YYZ and back.


  8. Greg Gormick urges: “Be sure to ask for a hydrogen-powered pony, Steve.”

    I would propose, instead (or additionally?) the prospect of a helium-powered pony, making sure to highlight the ass-ets of the “Giant Bum” Airlander 10 as detailed in this article.

    According to Hybrid Air Vehicles, the airship’s developer,

    “it is designed to use less fuel than a plane, but carry heavier loads than conventional airships [and] it can reach 16,000 feet (4,900 meters), travel at up to 90 mph (148 kph) and stay aloft for up to two weeks.”

    Advantages (I’m sure many more could be added):

    1. The never-ending issue – until recently – of overcrowding on routes such as that of the 504 King streetcar could now theoretically be lessened – or, gasp, eliminated? – on other routes, maybe Dufferin or Finch and the running time of *two weeks* would allow for more regular service on these routes, as well as operating at heights to avoid on-street congestion and offering faster commutes(1);
    2. Helium, unlike hydrogen, is not flammable, so the possibility of a Hindenberg-like catastrophe taking place is minimized;
    3. If the provincial Opposition parties accuse the Government of being full of hot air, well the ruling party can agree and claim, “Look what a benefit that is!”

    (1) “Waste bags” would have to be affixed to the hindquarters of all airborne ponies to avoid potentially deadly consequences – worse than what happened apocryphally to Sir Isaac Newton – if the road apples were to be allowed to fall onto the thoroughfares below!

    Oh, and another incidental outcome would be the even higher-pitched whinnying of the ponies (thanks to the helium gas), which would be a great positive PR tool and make them just too cute to refuse!

    Steve: Staying aloft for two weeks might give the TTC ideas about the length of delays customers might be forced to endure!


  9. Steve said: With the caveat that as long as people like elevated structures over their roads, you might be able to sell that. The question of “too slow” often has to do with stop spacing and with the degree of priority a surface route is given over other traffic.

    Exactly and begs the question of distances and limits to acceleration on LRT, subway, and other things are also based on reasonable comfort of the riders. Which I was under the understanding was the reason for the normal 1m/s/s acceleration normal on public transit.

    If you are accelerating to 25 m/s at 1 m/s/s you need 25 seconds to get there, if you are to slow at the same speed, you need 25 seconds to get back, so with a 600 meter stop spacing you are not going to ever exceed that speed, hence while you are getting to 90 kph you are only going to be averaging 45 while underway and reducing that average further due to the reality of being stopped to allow boarding and alighting. All this too say, unless you are going to make for a wild ride, how much time can you really save? Given even at this you are likely going to spend more time stopped than moving?

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  10. According to wikipedia, PCC streetcars could accelerate and (service) brake at up to 4.75 MPH/s. Transit Toronto notes 4.3 MPH/s for acceleration and 3.6 MPH/s for service braking. Whichever has that exactly right or not, I do know that PCC streetcars, according to the TTC’s own literature, had significantly higher acceleration than their replacment CLRVs.

    4.75 MPH/s is 2.12 m/s/s, or twice the now-standard 1 m/s/s; 4.3 MPH/s is 1.92 m/s/s.

    You’d need all passengers seated to really make use of that. But I do remember PCC cars on crowded routes like Dundas, easily outrunning cars from a stop.

    Add in the slow-closing doors instead of quick treadle doors, and you can see why operation may have slowed down regardless of other traffic. And the kids can get off my lawn!


  11. So, I want a pony that can accelerate at 3 m/s/s at a minimum! And upholstered seat(s)! And windows I can open!!

    Steve: Your design requirements will be taken into consideration, but I should warn you that the only real choice you will get is the colour. Metrolinx has not yet figured out how to breed all-black ponies with their squiggly logo as a forehead blaze. When they do, it will be any colour you like as long as it’s black.


  12. @ Malcolm N

    The other factor is that very few transit vehicles have the power rating to maintain an acceleration of 1 m/s/s up to 25 m/s. The acceleration rate will begin to drop off once the constant power point is reached, at best between 10 and 15 m/s. This would further reduce the maximum, also average, speed at a 600 m stop spacing.


  13. @ Robert Wightman – while this is true, this has a lot to do with the reality that the extra speed buys relatively little in average speed. There are many transit vehicles that cannot achieve that top speed of 25 m/s regardless of distance, because they were designed to maximum speeds of 19 m/s or only 24 m/s and the extra motor required to achieve it, would not be worthwhile. However, it is not a huge leap in tech required, just heavier gauge wire and more windings on a motor that is as a result heavier(or more driven wheels).

    The argument for speed instead argues for longer stop spacing, more than different technology which increases walking time. This is the best single argument for mixing commuter transit and local transit. Whether this be GO Rail, express bus or whatever, longer hauls served by vehicles with fewer stops has important application. Why the outer portion of subway has generally 2 km stop spacing, why Calgary LRT beyond core is similar. If Scarborough really wanted speed of transit, they would be focusing on creating a busway where buses from a variety of routes could run express to Kennedy, with virtually no stops once it entered the busway. The trip from Morningside to Kennedy would be short if there was a route that required no stops and did not have to deal with traffic.


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