Commuter Experience: The Magic of Transit

Written by Katherine Zheng, Digital Content Writer; Illustrations by Tehseen Sarwar, Digital Storyteller

There is something almost magical about the transit of Toronto, where it becomes a journey to and from campus that frames a shared sense of appreciation. The University of Toronto lies in the heart of the city, making it a hub for community and connection that goes beyond academia. With the campus community returning to the hustle and bustle of in-person, commuting to campus has also returned.  

With the Innovation Hub working in person, we asked team members about their commuter experience and how it impacts their student life. Commuting can be an unlikely place of enjoyment, leisure, and community in the moments before and after campus life. 

TTC Connects Us to the City 

While many students may feel as if the time spent travelling is wasted time, the TTC commute has always provided a space away from school or work. With the University of Toronto St. George Campus in the heart of downtown, the city and campus community are inherently intertwined.  

a person with headphones listening to music. surrounded by images of a clock, an open book, a laptop with a lightbulb, text message chats, a train

My favourite part of commuting is that I get to have an hour where I don’t need to do anything. No schoolwork, no assignments, and stress from the day are drowned out by the noise of the train thundering down the tracks. I’ve also learned a lot about travel and the city while commuting, something I may not have time for otherwise. There is also this sense of community that comes with just travelling with others, I enjoy the light whispers of conversation taking place around me.”

–  Tehseen Sarwar, Digital Storyteller 

Whether it be from the shared groan of a train delay, a shared nod to take the empty seat or the communal relaxation of the subway, the TTC is a space where a collection of strangers are brought together. It’s as if we have all acknowledged the unspoken bond that the TTC has brought us together, the TTC connects the campus to the city. 

Finding Enjoyment in Commuting 

The commute can also provide a space for rest and relaxation. The travel between home and school gives students the opportunity to de-stress and find human connection which was often taken for granted before the pandemic.  

two people with headphones listening to music in front of a window with a sun, cloud, and mountains. images of a pencil and paper, calendar, and map

As both a student and an iHub member, I’m on campus at least four days out of every week — living in North York, that means I’m on the TTC a lot. While I didn’t particularly enjoy this situation pre-pandemic, the social and physical isolation of COVID has really made me appreciate the commute itself. Being around other people, even strangers, and having the opportunity to experience parts of the city outside my neighbourhood used to be something I took for granted. These days, I’m really finding myself to be enjoying the commute, and considering the journey more to be an unorthodox leisure activity than an annoyance.” 

– Spencer Ki, Design Research Team Lead 

Every commuter student has a different experience and relationship with their travel. There are some days when the TTC commute is easy and hassle-free, while other days can be stressful and uncomfortable. As the Innovation Hub strives to understand the students of U of T and create a space open for all our team members, the experience of commuting is an important part of creating that community. Being a commuter student has its positives and its negatives, and it’s important to consider how to find joy in commuting and realizing there’s magic in everyday life.  

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