The commuting life in the city of Toronto can be a fun experience, but also an exhausting one. You have to plan your commute according to your class start times, and give yourself enough time to navigate varying levels of pedestrian and vehicular traffic. There’s also the possibility that trains and buses might be delayed, so the travel time could be extended. University of Toronto student commuters know the pains of rushing from one destination to the next, and the treacherous wait times can only add to the stress.
Here is an important guide to approaching your commute to the University of Toronto. This includes things you should remember at all times.
1) Rush Hour
If you’re taking the GO Train to your morning classes, any time between 7 AM – 9:30 AM will be crazy. You’ll notice that the train starts getting more and more crowded the closer you get to the core of downtown Toronto. If you take the Lakeshore Eastbound or Westbound train, you will have a full train by the time you reach Union Station. It becomes very crowded, and sometimes all of the stimuli can be distracting. It can also be quite annoying if you’re trying to study or read on your commute. Put on your headphones or earplugs and try to tune that out. At the same time, pay attention to your surroundings, such as which station you’re arriving at. If you miss your stop, it could add another twenty minutes to your commute. Do not fall asleep on the train!
2) Darker Evenings
On your evening or night time commutes, it’s harder to see where you are when riding on the train. This is because it is obviously dark outside, but second to this is the fact that the glass inside the train makes it harder to see outside at night. All the bright lights in the train reflect on the glass like a mirror, meaning you will see your own reflection almost perfectly. This means you might have trouble identifying which station you’re arriving at. Listen to the announcer to keep tabs on each station. In the evening and night, at least riding onboard the trains will be more peaceful since it will be well past the late afternoon rush hour!
3) Metro Pass
When using Toronto transit methods, such as the buses, streetcars, or subway lines, you must always be carrying your Metro pass and proper identification. Forgetting it accidentally will not save you from being charged. Always carry it with you in your bag or in a compartment that you can easily access (you will be asked to present this information). I recommend a lanyard with a card slot that allows you to wear the card around your neck. It’s convenient and will prevent you from forgetting it. Visit the U of T Bookstore to purchase a cool lanyard representing your school or program.
4) Pay Attention
When walking through the busy intersections of downtown Toronto, you need to have your full attention focused on what’s going on around you. Dangers include vehicles making turns, running red lights, and impatient drivers. While pedestrians conditionally have the right of way, it is best to be prepared and always assume that the vehicle has the main priority on the roads. This is especially important to remember when crossing the streets in downtown Toronto. Drivers are following their traffic light signals, and many might be trying to make a turn. If you’re crossing, make sure your pedestrian signal is displaying the walk icon. It is best to not cross when the “stop” signal starts counting down, as this serves as a warning to pedestrians who are still in the middle of crossing the street to hurry it up.
Watch the drivers’ traffic lights as well. If they have an advanced green light, indicated in Ontario as a solid green light paired with a green arrow light below or above it, it means they have the right of way for making a turn. Do not cross when they are performing their turn because drivers have the right of way here. This brings us to another point regarding vehicles that break the rules. Remember, it is best to assume that every reasonable driver is going to keep driving until the light turns red. However, there are some who still run the red in those last few seconds.
Do not cross until the intersection is clear from oncoming traffic in all directions. In other words, wait for all immediate traffic to stop. Look for vehicles that are stuck in the middle of the intersection because when the light turns red and they’re stuck, they will be forced to make their turn. If you’re crossing the street at this moment, you could walk right into something dangerous.
Stop, observe, and listen.
Make eye contact with every driver, no matter how tall their vehicle might be. The worst accidents in Toronto occur when pedestrians, drivers, and cyclists are not communicating well with one another. Always keep in mind that you’re sharing the roads and sidewalks with others, and everyone has somewhere important to go!
5) Healthy Commutes
Practice a healthy commute all around. The commute can add a lot of stress to the lives of students, especially when they live far from campus. The commute can take several hours of your day. For many commuters, this can take a toll on their mental and physical health. Just think: you’re sitting for an hour on your way to class. Then you have to do the same on the way back, plus a few more if there are delays. It’s a lot of waiting around.
If you drive to campus, then you know it’s a lot of time spent waiting in your vehicle on the highway during rush hour. All of that time spent sitting can make you feel unwell or even depressed. You might feel stiff or sore afterward.
It’s good to change up your commute. If you can walk a km or two instead of taking the bus, go for it! If you can bike from Union Station to campus, that’s a good activity to do as well. Also, if you want advice on incorporating activity into your everyday lifestyle, including making adjustments to your commute, you can get involved with the Move U initiatives. This is hosted by the University of Toronto. In the end, there are many ways to stay active and well.
Enjoy your commute and stay safe, University of Toronto!