By Sophie Chong
Taking transit to school can be the first and last challenge a commuting student faces every day, especially if they live over two hours away or get caught up on TTC delays. And two thirds of students rely on transit to get to and from most of their daily activities. All of this is according to a 2015 StudentMoveTO survey on student commuting.
Those very challenges that commuting students face to get to school are why the collaborative partnership, StudentMoveTO, was formed. It started when in 2015, when four universities, the University of Toronto (U of T), OCAD University, Ryerson University, and York University, came together to address one of the key challenges faced by their students on a daily basis.
In 2015, the first StudentMoveTO survey was launched, collecting data about how students travelled throughout the day and managed work schedules, studies, and daily activities. 63 per cent of students said their commute sometimes discouraged them from coming to campus. One-third spent more than two hours a day commuting to and from campus. 46 per cent chose courses based on their commute schedule.
“The StudentMoveTO survey, the one that was done in 2015, was hugely helpful to a number of important transit initiatives to students,” said Rob Dowler, contract lecturer at Ryerson’s School of Urban and Regional planning. “One example would be the discussion of the transit card at U of T where the students actually had a referendum, U-Pass,” said Dowler.
He said the information reveals the need for regional fare integration through Presto or other initiatives for students who spend over two hours a day commuting, as they often cross several transit systems to get to school.
“The survey helps inform organizations like Metrolinx, TTC, Viva and other transit organizations about the importance of the student’s view in getting the fares integrated so that you don’t have to pay several times to get to campus,” said Dowler.
Data from a second StudentMoveTO survey is set to be released in early 2020. The survey is an expanded version of StudentMoveTO’s initial survey in 2015, allowing more students to participate due to a greater amount of collaboration between post-secondary institutions. Data from this survey will show how commuting and transportation affect the well-being of students while exploring student’s transportation experiences since the rise of Uber and Lyft, and the York University subway extension.
“Some [Ryerson graduates] work for Metrolinx and work for the TTC,” said Dowler. “[Transit organizations] do listen very closely to students, because students are a big portion of the transit customer base. They’re very interested in what our students think and how they would like their services to be configured and paid for.”
Today, StudentMoveTO has become a collaboration of 10 universities and four colleges within the greater Toronto and Hamilton areas, representing at least 600,000 post-secondary students.
“The StudentMoveTO survey is about understanding…how you as a student and as a population, group creates unique demands and needs for transportation infrastructure,” said Raktim Mitra, an associate professor at Ryerson’s School of Urban and Regional Planning, and principal investigator at the StudentMoveTo project.
“When all of these institutions are joining forces toward a common cause…[it] means our professional partners such as Metrolinx and the City of Toronto, who are actually in a position to make decisions and implement change, are more interested in the data and its outcomes,” said Mitra.
Mitra hopes that the survey will be informative to the city on how to best design transit systems for commuters and understand traveler patterns with the hope of influencing transit policies to ensure that commuter needs are met.