Located in the heart of downtown Toronto, Ryerson University has around 75% of its students commuting by public transit. The busy roads and the lack of parking space in downtown Toronto is one of the main reasons why public transit is usually the best method for commuting to school–you know unless you live a walking distance away from the school. However, with that said, commuting through public transit can also be pretty tricky. As a student who travels for almost 2 hours by TTC to Ryerson, here are some of the challenges I have faced and tips on how to lessen these struggles.
The Presto card is your BEST friend
If you’re a regular public transit user in the Greater Toronto and Hamilton Area, you probably have a Presto Card already. But if you don’t, you need it now! It will save you from calculating your fare, rummaging for spare change, and getting a transfer ticket. With the Presto card, all you have to do is get on the bus, tap the card on the machine, and enjoy your ride. Now as easy as this sounds, there are some things you have to ensure of so your trip goes smoothly.
1. Make sure your Presto has money on it
There’s nothing more stressful than getting on a bus and having your Presto card declined with no refill station nearby. What I found helpful was refilling my card with $50 every time the balance was close to $10 and a refill station was accessible (e.g., at a TTC train station). This helped in reassuring me that I had money in my card and wouldn’t face the embarrassment of being denied a bus ride, making me late to school. However, if your budget can’t fit in a large refill amount on a schedule, try to plan out your potential fare expenses for the day or week. If you don’t know how much your total fare for the day is, be sure to calculate your fare by searching up “[Transit agency] Trip Planner” (e.g., “TTC Trip Planner” or “GO Train Trip Planner”).
2. Take advantage of the free 2 hour transfers
From the moment you tap your Presto on a TTC vehicle, you have an active two-hour transfer. This means you can tap your card on any TTC bus, streetcar, and station during the two-hour period with no charge. This is extremely helpful if you ever get on the wrong bus or decide to get off a bus, walk to another street and board a new bus. This way, you can avoid getting the regular paper transfer ticket as those are usually only valid when transferring buses at intersections.
3. Download the app
The app is the best way to remotely check your Presto card balance. You can also refill your card through the app, however, it is not immediately added to your account (there are multiple days of processing time)! You can also see all the transactions on your card and see what you were charged for and how much. Personally, I use the app to check my balance at home in advance to see if I have to find some spare change or plan to refill the card at the station.
Better early than late
Using public transit can be unpredictable as there are usually many bus delays on top of regular street traffic. What I’ve learned is that it better to be early than late, even if it’s just 10 or 15 minutes earlier than when Google Maps tells you to leave. This usually ensures me the time to get my coffee near campus and a class seat I prefer. This has also been beneficial to me in avoiding awkwardly walking into class late. However, this is extremely important for exam days! For every in-person exam I had, my biggest fear was encountering a train delay.
The most common TTC station students get off at to attend classes is Dundas station. As someone who takes the southbound train going down from Vaughan station, one of the most dreaded parts when trying to save time is either riding the whole U to Dundas station or transferring to Line 2 and back to Line 1. If you’re in the same position, there is a shortcut you can try out! Get off at St. Patrick’s station, get up to Dundas street and take the 505 streetcars which will take you straight to Yonge and Dundas. I have found this method less stressful when I’m in a rush, especially because you can get some fresh air in the middle of your trip! However, if you’re attentive to the time, it can actually be enjoyable to ride out the whole U.
Check bus and train times regularly
Unless you aren’t paranoid about missing the bus or being late, you should be checking when the buses and train are coming regularly. Many bus stop posts have a number you can text to their SMS service to find out when busses are approaching that stop. I have used this service multiple times to check whether I would have to walk or run to the bus stop. Also, if you’re picky like me, you can see how many buses are coming quickly after one another. This has helped me in skipping the first bus that comes, which is normally crowded, and get on the empty buses right after it. However, be mindful of how many times you text for bus arrival predictions as you are limited to 10 requests per 12 hour period. You will get an automated text, however, when you’ve reached 8 texts! For those travelling by GO Train or transit that doesn’t come frequently, be sure to search up the scheduled arrival times online!
I hope you were able to find some useful tips to make sure your public transit experience to school goes smoothly! Being familiar with and understanding the public transit system has personally made me more connected with the city. Thanks to commuting long hours to school, I have become much more comfortable with travelling around the city on my own. However, if you experience any problems, don’t be hesitant to ask a staff member or bus operator for help with directions. Safe commuting!