Commuting: The Multitasking Edition

Like most students here at the University of Toronto, I am a commuter student. As such, I spend a large portion of my time every day on our city’s treasure: the TTC.

Unlike many of my peers though, my commute is not that long. I only really have to be on the TTC for half an hour to get to campus. I know, I’m blessed. I commend those brave souls who travel to campus all the way from places like Ajax! The sum of those individuals’ commute is definitely not 41 minutes.

Yes — I deliberately made a Sum 41 joke in 2014, I apologize for that. 

Back to the subject at hand, yes, it’s slightly annoying to put your life on pause to sit in public transit. Nevertheless, I’ve recently started to take a new perspective on it, and I’ve actually come to embrace my time on the TTC.

To quote the great Ferris Bueller: “Life moves pretty fast. If you don’t stop and look around once in a while, you could miss it.”

You don’t actually have to have a miserable experience while commuting! It can even be *audible gasp* enjoyable.

Here’s what I did:

  1. My readings.

    Me holding one of my Anthropology of Youth Culture text.

    The Anthropology of Youth Culture!

    I don’t start new readings since I find it pretty difficult to start new readings in the frenzy of the TTC. However, I find it extremely helpful to re-read readings that I’ve already started or finished. While it is always advised that you look back at your readings, I perpetually ignore that fact, unless I’m on the TTC. Therefore, the TTC is a treasure to my GPA.

  2. Read newspapers.

    Me expressing sadness.

    I came too late. No copies of the Metro were left.

    I can’t even explain to you how far behind in the real world I was until this summer. Yes, we have the Internet. But with the Internet comes videos of dogs reuniting with their owners after a year. Why in the world would I voluntarily skip out on that, and instead read about Rob Ford’s $9-billion subway plan. It’s sad to say this — because I’m basically admitting I’m an old person — but the subway excites me these days, because I know I will have time to just read the newspaper. Getting topical is becoming fun for me!

  3. Listen to music.

    Me embarassing myself in public. I'm not singing,  I'm sanging!

    Me trying to achieve the whistle register.

    Sometimes I don’t want to think — sometimes I just want to put Avril Lavigne’s Girlfriend on full blast through my earphones, and just wail my arms. This is honestly such a stress reliever for me, you don’t understand. Sometimes it takes making a fool out of yourself to put everything back into perspective.
    (Warning: Never try to listen to Landslide by Fleetwood Mac while alone on the subway, you may start thinking about life and stuff)

  4. Sleep.
    Me sleeping.
    self-explanatory.

And that, folks, is how I realized, that the commuting part of being a commuter was not actually that bad.

So, UofT, what do you do on your commute?

TTC? Why man why????

So earlier this month I (along with many of you other U of T students) dished out a whopping $106 for my monthly TTC Metropass. As I sadly saw that money drift away never to be seen again, I had a thought: “If I went to school in another city would I be paying the same amount of money as I do here in Toronto?”. I know we all love to hate on the TTC (I think they charge far too much and provide a fairly poor standard of service), but when we actually take the time to compare the TTC rates to other cities does Toronto still suck all our money from us?

Obviously as the result of the economy most cities have to increase prices from time to time. Cities such as Dallas, and Boston saw fare increases range from 15% to 23% from 2010-2012, which is pretty high if you think of it. So where does that put the TTC in comparison to other cities here at the beginning of 2013? Well even with our somewhat more stable economy , Toronto still has the highest trip index among most North American cities.

Yep We WIN!

“Now what is a Trip Index Shak, you may say!” Well I shall tell you dear random reader. It’s basically the amount of trips one needs to take in order to make up for the $106 you paid at the beginning of the month. Shockingly it takes one 48 trips in order to pay for itself, this basically evens out to having to travel there and back, from either school or work, 22 days out of the month, plus a few more times on the weekends. No other city has such a high index, not even New York’s (47). (Just check out the graph above)

Also what is with this business on transfers….. I mean what the heck is up with those things. I’ve been taking the TTC for years and years and I still am not entirely clear on how exactly I am supposed to use one. Is it useable in most places? Generally not, only in certain designated stops is one allowed to use a transfer to go from a subway to bus, or streetcar to subway, etc. I mean just look at how some of the other Canadian cities deal with transfers/stopovers. Edmonton, Calgary, and Vancouver use a 90-120 minute time allotment for stopovers in either direction on their lines. So for instance if you are running an errand you have the ability to use one fare there and back, provided that you simply don’t go over your time limit. GENIUS I SAY!

Look we can't even afford maintenance!

Toronto residents could also greatly benefit from having “downtown” fares much like Calgary does. Downtown fares in these cities provide lower rates due to the higher density population base in certain parts of the city; but of course we don’t have that either.

Seriously Toronto get your stuff together, our wallets are getting sucked dry here and our system isn’t all that great! I think I’ll give the TTC a call……. oh wait nvermind.

Those sneaky devils

- Shak

I Got Commuter Problems

So I was planning to start this post off with some cool Haiku about my commuting problems, or even a short poem, but nothing, nothing, will communicate how I truly feel about subwaying it, in all its delaying/security/emergency/track level issues, downtown to school. Only this will:

AAAAAHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHH!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Please, share in my pain.

I really don’t know what to say about the T-T-C. I mean, I’m dependent on it. I don’t have a car, so I need to use the subway to get everywhere, especially to school. And, it seems every time I’m on it, every time, there is always some sort of delay, issue and whatnot. Why, I ask. Fees have increased, technology has evolved. I am left in the TTC dark.

Ok, I admit, I *may* sound a bit harsh. Some of the delays are do to health emergencies of the passengers or even security issues aboard trains. But, I don’t get why the whole network has to stop to wait for the proper personnel to arrive. I just don’t get it.

Inspired by the recent U of T meme-age . . .

So, my fellow thousands of students who commute to school who use public transport, let us rally together and arm ourselves against the TTC.

1) Plan for the worst: budget some extra time for your daily commute so you won’t be late for wherever you are going. I’d say an extra 15 minutes, but then again, the TTC loves to surprise us with much longer delays. I admit I always fail to do this because, as the bulk of my commute is early in the morning, I just can’t summon the strength to get out of the bed. I love sleep. When you are stuck, break out a book or course materials so you can use that time to your advantage.
2) The TTC app: ironically, while the TTC’s own technology fails to serve its customers, it has decided to partake in technology to alert them of schedule changes, delays etc. Search your respective phone/android apps and you will find it.
3) Have a plan B, as in plan Bus: Know your bus routes. As soon as you can confirm super long delays, high tail it outta there. Major lines like Yonge have a Yonge bus. Know the times it stops at each subway stop.

Next time you are late to class, meeting a friend or work, don’t feel embarrassed to blame the “you know what.” It happens to all of us.

Desiree

http://www.ttc.ca/Routes/index.jsp  TTC Schedule for its various routes

It’s crunch-time! Staying physically active during exams

Crammed with school-work? Make time for your health!

Frozen fingers, frozen toes, and it seems, a frozen commitment to staying active as a busy student. Yes, I’m hanging my head in shame. Several times this month (urgh…daily), I’ve taken the subway from St. George to Spadina Station to avoid the cold. I have put my bike away for the winter, and have become committed to getting my money’s worth from my Metropass.

Yes, it’s a clever survival tactic for enduring cold Canadian winters, but it’s also exam-time. This means that the over-achiever in me has kicked in and I’m not replacing the 10 minutes it takes me to walk from St. George to Spadina with other physical activity. The only sustained movement I seem to be prioritizing these days is the occasional trip to Starbucks for a dose of “essential” exam-fuel.

Earlier this year, I made a commitment to staying healthy and active, but is it okay to put my health and fitness goals on hold during exams?

Don't become a potato head during exams. Give your brain a break!
Are exams turning you into a study spud? Give your brain a break!

I had a chat with Dr. Guy Faulkner, a professor in the Faculty of Physical and Health Education and head of U of T’s Exercise Psychology Unit. He has initiated the “Walk@Work” program to help U of T staff become more physically active on the job.

Dr. Faulkner indicated that we need “a minimum of 150 minutes of moderate-vigorous physical activity a week to be healthy.” What is moderate-vigorous activity? “It’s walking at a pace you would if you were late for a meeting,” Dr. Faulkner explained.

Dr. Faulkner told me that many students “report lack of time as a barrier to being physically active.” Like me, they care about doing well academically first and foremost. However, he emphasized that “you are not wasting your time by going to the gym.” In fact, university students who are active are reported to have less visits to health services, experience less stress, have improved concentration, and better sleeps. So, staying healthy during exams needs to be a priority if I want to do my best.

Take a 10 minute walking study break!

Take a 10 minute walking study break!

Dr. Faulkner stressed that physical activity doesn’t need to happen at the gym. If lifting weights, running on a treadmill, or doing a fitness class isn’t for you, you can still find other ways to reap the benefits. The minimum target of 150 minutes can be broken up into bouts of 10 minutes (turns out that short walk I’ve been missing by taking public transit was doing a lot for my health).

Even though ten minutes doesn’t seem like a lot, you still need to schedule it into your day. “It is really all about planning. If you don’t plan for it, it won’t happen,” Dr.Faulkner warned. “Part of the planning process is identifying barriers to being physically active and coming up with strategies to overcome them.” For me, this means making time to be physically active without drastically altering my precious study schedule. It also means dressing appropriately, like remembering to bring my hats and mitts, so that I’m prepared for winter weather.

Dr. Faulkner also suggested finding social support for being active. “The majority of people find it easier to do physical activity with friends.” I usually study at the library with my friend, Ali. So next time, instead of taking our breaks at the café at Gerstein, we could go for a walk through Queen’s Park, to refresh, re-energize and re-charge.

So, newly inspired and informed, I am recommitting myself to my goal to stay fit; I shouldn’t let the stress of exams and the cold of winter freeze my commitment to being physically active on campus. Simple things like getting off one subway stop early, having walking study breaks, walking to a further coffee shop than I normally would, having “walking meetings,” or walking “catch-ups” with friends will help me survive the exam crunch and hopefully, help me to get better results.

Readers, do you have any strategies for being more physically active during exams? Please, tell me your secrets! Gotta run, have a meeting to go to…guess I’ll bundle up and walk there!

-Shannon

I rode a rocket to school today


Well, not a real rocket, “the” rocket. The TTC. I caved. There were just too many rainy days in October. My bike is now hibernating for winter. It will wake up in the spring when my eyeballs don’t freeze while biking.

I bought a post-secondary student Metropass. It was $99 plus the $5 and change for a student ID card. Once the weather started to get cold and wet and biking was no langer an option, I had been attemping to drive to school. Between free street parking and pay and display parking in lots on campus, I was spending $12 more per week than what a metropass would cost. I had no choice; I had to start riding the rocket. (A side note: I am pretty sure the rocket I rode with my son last month, at the fall fair, was faster than the TTC’s rocket most days.)

You might be expecting this post to be about my various issues with the TTC. But you would be wrong. I actually love my Metropass! At first, I begrudgingly accepted my fate as a rider instead of a biker or a driver. But once I realized in my frugality that I was holding a “get out of trudging across Queens Park with my ten pound backpack pass”, my entire mindset changed. I am well aware of the fact that I may or may not gain an inexcusable amount of weight in the time between now and when my bike will be woken up from its long winters sleep.

Yet I persist. I ride the TTC everywhere now. I used to walk across Queens Park to get to my classes on the west side of campus. I now take the subway north to St. George. When I am down on Spadina and I need to get over to my college on St. George, I don’t walk. I take the streetcar north to Spadina station and the travel the one stop to St. George. My schedule has been blown wide open. Gone are the days of being confined to the east side of campus all morning to avoid having to walk all the way back two hours later. Now I commute around campus. I can finish class at Alumni hall, be at Robarts five minutes later, and be back to Kelly Library in another five minutes. And it doesn’t even matter if it’s raining! I am nice and dry in my subterranean tubular student delivery vehicle. Although all this might be interpreted as pure laziness, let me assure you it is not. Every time I swipe my post-secondary student Metropass, I am letting the TTC know that Lori is riding the rocket at a reduced rate and is loving it! I am singlehandedly increasing ridership one stop at a time. I rode the TTC five times on Wednesday.

I don’t have a lot of extra cash and I spent one hundred dollars on my Metropass. I swear I will squeak every last dollar out of this pass. I will ride every available streetcar, bus, and subway that I am capable of riding. Nay, this is not laziness my fellow students. This is a mission!

Metropasses for November are now on sale. Find out more.

-Lori

All Your Commute Are Belong To Bus

Liesl's Bus?
Liesl’s Bus?

I commute, yes? I can’t say it’s an interesting experience, because it’s all I’ve ever known. I know nothing outside of my familiar, demonic TTC bus route and Finch-University-Spadina Subway line. Okay, that was a stretch, but… yeah.

Anyway, my commute from Unidentified Suburban Land takes me roughly and hour and a half… three hours if there is a snowstorm (and if SCHOOL IS CANCELLED WHEN I ARRIVE). I myself wouldn’t say it’s an exuberantly far distance, but it can be quite limiting and does take up a good part out my day and soul. It also makes it hard to stay out partying and being young and whatnot. I am generally exhausted upon returning to my abode, despite barely doing anything while in transit.

I can get up at 7:30 a.m, depart with the mother unit and get to school a tad bit early, or I can sleep in for thirty minutes and essentially doom myself. If class begins at 11, I must leave around 9. If I wake at 8 a.m., the hour I have to prepare for the day cannot satisfy my indecisive samba around the house. I don’t know why, but I can never decide what I want to wear without planning something brilliant the night before/pulling out the perfect shirt upon my first reach into my atrocious dresser. I’m one of those ‘what I feel like’ people. Feelings and new age cooties and the like. If I don’t wear something distinctly ‘me’, I might miss out on that one person who will walk up me and say “Where’d you get that cool shirt?” and I say “I made it!” and the new friend turns out to be a Birthday Massacre fan or my future husband or something. After that comes the food dilemma, both deciding what to burn for breakfast and packing a complicated, paranoid lunch plus snacks à cause de my fear of spending too much money on campus and/or starving on a delayed bus.

In addition to my hour and a half demon ride, I must walk to the bus stop, a gruelling pilgrimage whose maximum can reach 30 minutes if my bag is heavy enough. Once again, I lie to you. It usually takes 15-20 minutes and is quite relaxing. The only problems are that I cannot run to the bus stop, being athletically challenged (or, a nerd), and time is not always allotted for the occasional transit delay.

The bus ride can be relaxing, provided NO OTHER PEOPLE ARE ON THE BUS. It’s nice and empty around the late morning; 8 or 9 a.m., on the other hand, is pretty crowded. Nothing compared going home at 5 or 6 p.m, though, at which the trains and buses become a mass of humans all chewing gum with their mouths wide open. I also believe everyone without a baby carriage on the subway is a potential murderer, so I can be seen doing the shiftiest of shifty-eyed glances while riding. Unless I am asleep. Were I 6 feet tall and male, the disparities of society would protect me from most dangers, like that guy at Finch Station that requests a dollar from every small black woman he sees.

I must include a sentence about my crazy, trooper mother and her staying up until 11, midnight or 1 a.m., to pick us (me and part-timer sister) from the bus stop. The occasional “Why doesn’t your mom let you out?” is very annoying.

I find that students living in campus residences are quite sparse. Most of us seem to either commute or live close by, whether it’s at their own place or with their parents (caregivers, other family, friends, etc.) In my opinion, residence fees are frightening. I almost wound up in Loretto College last year, the setting of my older sister’s grand roster of roommate and floormate horror stories (No offence to Loretto, aaaaahhhh!!) and I found the fees to be through the roof. I’ve met a couple of people who’ve chosen to stay in res (rez?) for one year, just for the experience. I can only imagine the experience, the romanticism of staying out regardless of the subway closing, bravely scrounging and filling Tupperware with goods from your respective cafeteria, mastering one’s own laundry, crying for Mom and one’s Playstation at exam time… I have yet to mention the monthly purchase of the TTC Metropass, biting many and yet saving a handful from misguided escapades in the big, bad… Tomato. [/failed NYC pun]

Other students probably have better time management skills, and thusly better commuting patterns than mine. I hope so, at least. Regularity is probably the best way to make the most of one’s travel scheme. Is it possible for a student to actually spend the same amount of time getting ready each day? Is it possible to have a schedule? Is it truly? Oh, Shakespearean woes, I hope it is.

What the great tangent of thoughts before you is trying to say is… commuting, and its related issues, are an interesting experience. Yes, I do remember the first second sentence I wrote.

 

- Liesl