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.


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







Diverse routes

Traffic (and ugh, downtown traffic)



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)



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.





*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.


*less subject to motion sickness*



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


*not really subject to motion sickness at all*



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


Monthly Metropass

VIP pass for U of T students



Monthly pass

Need Student card, get form at registrar



Monthly pass

(none, boo)


All 3

GTA Weekly



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.

4 comments on “Transportation options at U of T: Journey of a commuting student

  1. Holy smokes: tables! I’ve always liked taking the GO train when coming into the city from out yonder, but probably because I haven’t ever needed to do so every day for a few hours a day (as I live downtown). But there is something sort of romantic about the idea of getting to school by train, it makes classes seem that much more important.

  2. I totally understand.

    To commute from the door of my house to the door of Res during the school year takes 2 and 1/2 hours. I have to take the YRT which comes once an hour, or once every 1/2h if im lucky, and then the viva and then the subway. In combination with waiting and walking times, its 2 1/2h, one way.

    Thats why I live on Res during the school year – I could put those 20 hours of traveling a week to good use.

    I used to take the go train when I went home on the weekends, but it was $5.55 just for the train, and then $2.75 to get to Union subway and I just thought those prices were too high.

    Even to get to my summer job now, takes me over 1h 1/2. I’m up at 6:30 AM, to leave my house at 7:15 to catch a bus at 7:30 to get to the subway by 8:30 to get to work by 9AM. Boy, its crazy.


    Phew – that was a rant, not a comment! Liesl would be proud.

  3. I have 3 things to say:
    1. that is the shiniest car I’ve ever seen
    2. the GO train system brings out my inner dyslexic
    3. so that’s how you spell ‘bwuh’!

    ok 4 — good on bringing the Ontario Distance Grants to light

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