Commuting: one word, nine letters, and the countless, dreaded hours spent on any form of transportation.
In my first year, I was one of those res-staying, meal plan–using, wake-up-10-minutes-before-your-class kind of kid. In retrospect, not only were those days glorious; they were ones that I definitely took for granted. As someone who now commutes—treks may or may not be a better word—to York almost three hours a day, I have definitely learned a few things that can be of help to you and your daily struggle.
Nota bene: If you are one of those people who live a 15-minute TTC bus ride away, I envy you.
Pro Tip #1: The saving grace of PRESTO cards
If you are an avid GO or Viva bus-taker, this one goes out especially to you. You know that PRESTO card? That PRESTO card that can take up to 24 hours to have money loaded onto? Well, it turns out you can set up weekly/monthly schedules to automatically transfer a specific amount onto your card. After the initial setup, you can relegate to the past those moments when you have forgotten to load money onto your card, need to awkwardly pay the bus driver in cash and consequently delay the whole bus.
Pro Tip #2: Keepin’ busy
For those long commuting days, make sure you always bring something to do. Here is a list of some of the things with which I usually like to busy myself on the bus:
- Listen to music: Now this one seems obvious, but being university students, we don’t always have the time to buy/download music on to our phones. My solution: Spotify and Songza ( incorporated into Google Play Music since January 2016), the Ben & Jerry’s of the music world. This is perfect if you have a decent amount of data on your phone — if not, there is a monthly fee to listen to music “offline” (aka without Wi-Fi). But fear not, Spotify currently has a deal for 99 cents for a three-month-membership. That’s three months of VIEWS for just under a dollar. Can it get better than that?
- Reading material: My second favourite thing to do on the bus is read. With lectures, tutorials, club meetings and all of the other things I have going on during the day, I rarely ever have time to read things outside of course material. Personally, I like to bring along novels that I borrow from the public library, or get a collection of newspapers from the news stands at YorkU — all things that are free. If you want to save some studying time, some commuters also do their readings on the bus, but I like to give my mind a little break before those back-to-back three-hour lectures.
- Podcasts: This is something I actually need to credit my Business Ethics (SB MGMT 1040) professor for, but podcasts are amazing things; they are basically like reading but without the physical and mental effort of, well, reading. Being a Business major and an overall news fanatic, I enjoy The Economist, which has an app for mobile and tablet devices that gives you free access to the Editors’ picks, but there are thousands of options online.
- If all else fails . . . you can always catch up on some sleep.
Pro Tip #3: Food is a must
Make sure you always have something to eat; this can range from bringing a snack every day on the bus or just keeping a granola bar or two in your bag for those emergency situations (note: not all buses allow food, so make sure to confirm with your bus driver before eating). I personally enjoy bringing some fresh fruit or little items such as rice cakes and yogurt packs.
Pro Tip #4: Timing is everything
With most York classes ending at the same time (i.e. 11:30am, 2:30pm, 5:30pm or 7:00pm), it can be hard to avoid the plethora of students exiting the Curtis Lecture Halls. However, one important thing to note especially for weekday classes is trying to circumvent rush-hour times. If you know your class ends around 5 or 5:30pm on a Friday evening, I would highly recommend spending an hour or two at Scott Library to avoid what I like to call the “9-to-5 flush”.
If you are commuting by car, make sure to check out the Parking Services page to learn more about parking permits and other tips. Parking Services can be found in Room 222 at the William Small Centre or can be reached by phone at 416-736-2100 ext. 55335.
Despite being time-consuming and sometimes borderline frustrating, commuting is a great way to live life more responsibly AND to save some serious cash. Personally, throughout the time I have been commuting, I have found myself becoming more responsible and proactive in my daily life. It has also taught me time-management skills that will be invaluable to my future career.
If you are a first-time commuter and know nothing about the busing system at York and the Greater Toronto Area, make sure to check out my colleague Sam’s post “Freshman Transit.”
If you felt like you could relate to this post or have some of your own commuting secrets to share, make sure to tweet @YorkUStudents with the #YUBLOG. I look forward to hearing from you all!
This post is an updated version of my colleague Arshia’s post “How to Be a Pro Commuter.”