Transportation options at U of T: Journey of a commuting student

Commuting tools

Commuting tools

Toronto is great because the TTC allows you to get around the city without a driving. And why would you want to? The TTC is underground, above ground and around town. Driving usually takes longer with the traffic anyways. However, the TTC is not so great because it doesn’t play nice with its neighboring brethren, making commuting a pain. And like Liesl, I commute.

I live north, like, York Region north. Okay, fine. I live in Richmond Hill. Do not stalk me, for I have seekrit ninja skills. Anyhow, my commute looks like this:

HOME -> Walk -> YRT bus -> GO train -> TTC Subway -> TTC Streetcar -> And then I still have to walk -> UNIVERSITY

To get to the university by 9:00, I have to be up at 6:30 and out the door by 7:00. I’ve experimented with getting out later, but many a missed buses later, I’ve found that two hours is THE minimum time I need. Trains do not wait, and every second is precious. That’s why it’s not my OCD talking when I tell you that my wristwatch is timed to the second to the Union Station clock. Don’t feel sorry for me though, students-who-wear-pjs-to-class, I’ve met people who commute further and longer. In fact, I don’t even qualify for any of the Ontario Distance Grants given to commuting students who really walk the talk! (Well, travel the talk, but it’s not as pithy, and it doesn’t rhyme)

Nonetheless, commuting gets messy when you start messing with other systems. Traveling options (for me at least) are thus: TTC – Toronto Transit Commission (subway, streetcar, and bus), York Region Transit and VIVA (bus), and GO Transit (train and bus). And maybe a car, depending.

As you can see, young grasshoppers, the roads toward potential academic enlightenment are many. Therefore, if you must traverse across great distances and employ the services of multiple systems, it is wise to consider all your options, and uhm, choose wisely.

Meaning, you’re goin’ to wanna know a) when you need to travel; b) how you’re going to travel; and c) how you’re going to pay for everything. Check it out.

A) Your schedule =/= their schedule.

Most transit systems were made to accommodate work hours, which means you’ll find that most services run the most before and during 9 and 5. Our schedules are anything but. We operate on hourly/bi-/tri-hourly chunks that may be dead in the evenings or early morning, or whenever the professor feels like teaching that year. For example, last year, I had a lot of evening classes, and the GO trains were replaced with GO buses that ran an hour apart. And the more off-work hours there get to be, the more difficult it is to coordinate between different transit schedules. Print out the available schedules, and start cross referencing.

B) TTC? YRT? VIVA? GO? HUH?

There are pros and cons for each method of transportation associated with its vehicle type:

Type

System

Pros

Cons

Bus/Streetcar

TTC, YRT, VIVA, GO

Diverse routes

Traffic (and ugh, downtown traffic)

Subway

TTC

Underground, therefore, no traffic*

*unless you know, something delays it, again.

Gets crowded during business hours (no need to hold for balance! You’re already safe between human cushions)

Train

GO

Best of both words, because you have the diversity of the bus routes, and the traffic-less-ness of the subway (see * above for fine print)

Ah, well, you pay for comfort. Just a tad more.

And by diverse routes, I mean it spans greater distance. There’s not a lot of stops, which is not too convenient if you just want to stay within downtown

Also, comfort levels in each car vary. If I’m going to be spending at least an hour on something everyday, that something better be a place where I can read, eat, and sleep. I’ve seen this list of requirements extend to talking on the phone, putting on makeup, knitting/crocheting, listening to music really loudly without headphones, and debating, also really loudly, but what can I say, I’m a simple person.

Read

Eat

Sleep

Bus

*subject to motion sickness*

Yes, If you can stand when there’s no seat

The previous, and if you can manage with no table top

The previous, and if you can wake up at your stop.

Subway

*less subject to motion sickness*

Above.

Above.

My hair gets caught in the blasted poster ads, but see above.

Train

*not really subject to motion sickness at all*

Yes

Above.

OMG, yes!*

* So okay, the reason why I LOVE the GO train is because it is the best place to sleep. Their head rest is placed just right so that your head doesn’t roll around when you lean back, unlike on the bus and subway, where you’re falling onto your seatmate’s shoulders, or bent at such an awkward angle that your head is lopsided when you wake. Also, people wake you up when you get to Union station. Perhaps they can empathize with your sleep deprivation, I don’t know, but I’ve never been left on the train asleep before. I once fell asleep on the subway on my way home, and had doubled back to Eglinton before I woke and went, “Bwuh? Why am I not at Finch yet? Actually, why is the train going south when it was headed north?”

C) $$$

While tuition and textbooks are semester-ly bank account leeches (yearly, if you’re lucky), transit passes are regular leeches (leech, singular, if you’re lucky).

Unlimited travel passes

Student Discount available?

Discounted Price

TTC

Monthly Metropass

VIP pass for U of T students

$96

GO

Monthly pass

Need Student card, get form at registrar

$133

YRT

Monthly pass

(none, boo)

$105

All 3

GTA Weekly

Nope

$47/week*

Also only $.50/ride if you’re transferring from GO

*As you can see, you have to buy the GTA Weekly pass, well, weekly. Not so convenient if you’re forgetful, like me, or if the nearest place to get the pass (GTA Weekly passes are not always available where the other passes are sold) is far enough that it’s out of your way and not worth the few dollars you save every month.

And that’s it, fellow journeying commuters! Transit systems can’t scare you if you’re not afraid, so go forth into the world and be free! Long distance is foe no more!

- Cynthia

PS: So, what is your commute like? What do you adore and detest about the transit system? Pray tell.