Campus Life

10 commuter tips for this back-to-school season

by Andrew Slock

Taking the TTC doesn’t have to be stressful.

The Fall semester is starting up, and that means your life is about to get super busy. Between paying tuition and adjusting to a new schedule, you have enough to worry about without stressing over your daily commute.

So, whether you’re a first-year student just learning the ropes, or a fourth-year veteran getting back into the swing of things, there are plenty of ways to make your life as a passenger a little easier.

Here are 10 commuter tips for this back-to-school season:

1. Always give yourself extra time to get to class

Old fashioned alarm clock sitting on top of a blanket.

When it comes to taking transit, you don’t have control over delays, signal issues or emergency detours, but you do have control over when you leave your house. If it takes you an hour to get to school, give yourself at least an extra 30 minutes. If there are transfers on your route, give yourself even more time — just to be safe.

 

2. Check the weather

A hand holding an umbrella outside on a rainy day.

This might seem obvious, but before I started commuting, I never checked the weather. Then I was caught in a thunderstorm without an umbrella one day; so I got into the habit of checking the forecast and planning accordingly. Having to ride the streetcar while you’re soaking wet isn’t fun (or healthy).

 

3. Use a transit app

The home screen of an iPhone.

If you’re relying on a static schedule to tell you when you should be at a bus stop or train station, you’re doing it wrong. Do yourself a favour and download a transit app on your phone. The TTC and other municipal transit systems share their GPS data with app developers so they can provide you with real-time updates on arrivals. Transit, Moovit, Citymapper, Rocketman and Google Maps are all popular choices.

 

4. Wear comfortable clothes

Close up of a person's sneakers on a wet sidewalk.

A lot of people want to look their best on campus at the beginning of the semester. I get that. But have you noticed how uncomfortable it is to ride transit every day? Wearing things like tight jeans and high heels don’t help either. Opt for a tracksuit and some sneakers instead. After you’ve had a long day of classes, you’ll be so glad you did.

 

5. Invest in a decent backpack

Close up of a canvas backpack with leather straps.

I hate to be the bearer of bad news, but the Jansport that got you through high school isn’t going to cut it anymore. Between your laptop, textbooks, water bottle, lunch bag, makeup bag, pencil case, headphones, wallet, sweater, phone charger and who knows what else—you need a backpack big enough to fit all of your prized possessions. And it needs to be durable too!

 

6. Get a solid data plan

A row of people sitting down and using smartphones.

If you’ve been relying on public Wi-Fi connections to access the internet on your smartphone until now, I’m afraid it’s the end of an era. While TTC subway stations offer free Wi-Fi, that won’t help much once you’re on the move. If you can afford it, upgrade your plan to something that will give you at least a few gigs. If money’s tight, take advantage of the back-to-school promotional plans offered by most major carriers.

 

7. Sign up for a music streaming service

An iPhone launching the Spotify app.

Services like Apple Music, Spotify and YouTube Music are great ways to add a custom soundtrack to your commute. And while you can use them for free with limited capability, the premium subscriptions are definitely where it’s at. Before you laugh at paying for music in 2019, you should know that being a student gets you some major discounts, like 50% off Spotify.

 

8. Buy a decent pair of headphones

A man wearing headphones facing away from the camera toward a street.

When you spend several hours a day listening to music, you deserve to hear your favourites in all their glory. Brands like Bose, Beats and Skullcandy offer great headphones in a range of styles and price points. Snag yourself a pair, and not only will you take your music to the next level, but you’ll never have to hear the awful sound of an old man clipping his toenails a few seats away.

 

9. Download Netflix shows and Spotify playlists instead of streaming

A laptop launching Netflix while surrounded by blankets and a plate of snack foods.

Now that you’ve got yourself a sweet data plan, the first thing you should do is stream Netflix and Spotify to your phone with wanton disregard, right? WRONG. Be smart with your data. Download your favourite shows and playlists over wifi before you head out. Yes, this is a real feature offered by most streaming apps. You’re welcome.

 

10. Bring a phone charger

A person charging a smartphone with low battery warning displayed on screen.

Your phone battery was at 100% before you left your house, so you didn’t bring your charger to school. Big mistake. When commuting by transit, you’re probably going to use it for the entire trip. So, yeah, your phone’s going to die before you’ve had lunch and you’ll be forced to ask everyone in your class if they have a charger. That’s just annoying for everyone involved.


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