It ain’t no Uber, but it’ll get you there. Probably.
If you’re someone who relies on transit to get to school or work on a daily basis, then you probably have a love-hate relationship with it. If you’re someone who specifically relies on the TTC then it might be a hate-hate relationship.
Sure buses, streetcars and subways get you where you need to go, but it doesn’t come cheap for the daily commuter. The high cost goes beyond the financial burden too. In and around Toronto there seem to be delays every day. And the farther you live from your destination, the greater the chance there is for something to go wrong.
Add other inconveniences like exposure to the elements at bus stops, weirdos on the subway and uncomfortable seats (if you’re lucky enough to get one) and the whole thing starts to sound like more trouble than it’s worth.
I totally get it. But take it from me: it is worth it. How do I know? Well, buckle up ‘cause I’ve got a story for you.
I first applied to Humber in the spring of 2017, and at the time I was living on my own in Mississauga. A big part of why I chose Humber was because it was a short drive from my place. Unfortunately, I ran out of money a few months later and I had to move back in with my mom in Ajax (super embarrassing, I know).
Shortly after I settled into the Durham region, I got my acceptance letter from Humber. I was so excited, but quickly realized I would have one hell of a commute if I decided to enroll. But I had a good car that I loved to drive, so I decided my education was worth the inconvenience.
The commute sucked far worse than I expected though. By midterm of the fall semester, I already dreaded the daily drag of bumper-to-bumper traffic on the 401, 427, DVP and Gardiner Expressway. It didn’t matter which route I took. In the mornings, I would stress about getting to class on time; in the evenings, I would nearly fall asleep at the wheel on my way home.
To make matters worse, gas prices were skyrocketing. I was spending around $150 a week on fuel. Add car payments, insurance and maintenance to the equation and the privilege of driving quickly became unsustainable. I had no choice but to get rid of my car in the winter semester. That was really hard for me.
On my very first day of school without a car, I had to give an important speech in one of my classes. Trying to figure out how to get from Ajax to Humber via transit was overwhelming. For a moment I actually considered it might not be possible to travel such a distance by transit alone. I was so naïve.
With the help of Google Maps, I eventually found my way. I took the Durham bus to the Ajax GO station and from there I grabbed a train to Union Station. When I got to Union, I switched to a different train that continued West to the Long Branch GO station. And from Long Branch, I was finally able to take a bus headed East on Lake Shore Blvd to school.
Along the way, I fumbled with cash and coins to pay for three different fares, and I did it all again on my way home. I was frustrated with paying this way, so I bought myself a Presto card that same night. Using one card for payment across Durham Transit, GO Transit and the TTC made my newfound reliance on public transportation surprisingly bearable.
My commute is a mission, I know. But it sounds worse than it really is. At least until I have to head home and do it all over again after class… *shudders*. The two-and-a-half-hour travel time across three different types of transit aside—public transportation is pretty rad. Without it, I wouldn’t be able to continue my education. I wouldn’t be the learned man you see before you today.
Granted, my commute is an extreme example. While Humber is known as a “commuter school”, most students don’t live as far from campus as I do. If you live in Toronto and take nothing but the TTC every day, you might not feel as grateful for public transportation. That’s a shame though, because you have even more reason to be grateful.
The TTC is well integrated across the six boroughs and far more affordable than GO Transit. It’s even more affordable than transit in a lot of other regions. And buses arrive more frequently. If you miss one, there’s usually another one not too far behind. In Durham, they’re often more than 20 minutes apart.
I guess what I’m saying is, much like driving a car, taking transit is a privilege. Though, unlike driving a car, taking transit saves you money, keeps you safer, funds your local infrastructure, lowers emissions and gives you the freedom to read a book, take a nap or knit a sweater while you travel. So try and give it the appreciation it deserves every now and then.
As for me, I love driving and I do miss my car, but I don’t miss being stuck on the highway during rush hour. Now I coast by the 401 on the Lakeshore East GO train while watching a movie and laughing at all the suckers sitting still in traffic.
Want to hear a fresh perspective on life in Toronto? Read From small town girl to big city urbanite.