Media Releases

Four Toronto universities release findings of student transportation needs

April 7, 2016

Toron­to, ON – Stu­dent­Move­TO, a col­lab­o­ra­tion between Toronto’s four uni­ver­si­ties to address stu­dent trans­porta­tion needs, found that stu­dents in the GTA are spend­ing too much time com­mut­ing to and from class­es each day.

The find­ings are the result of a joint sur­vey con­duct­ed by the four uni­ver­si­ties. It is the largest sur­vey of its kind in the region, com­plet­ed by 15,226 stu­dents from OCAD Uni­ver­si­ty, Ryer­son Uni­ver­si­ty, York Uni­ver­si­ty and the Uni­ver­si­ty of Toron­to. The ini­tia­tive is the first trav­el sur­vey in the GTA to effec­tive­ly cap­ture stu­dent trav­el pat­terns, offer­ing a win­dow into the trans­porta­tion chal­lenges uni­ver­si­ty stu­dents face.

The study found:

  • 1 in 3 respon­dents or 33 per cent of those who filled out the sur­vey spend two hours or more per day trav­el­ing to and from cam­pus.
  • On aver­age, it takes stu­dents 40 min­utes one way to get to cam­pus.
  • 1 in 4 stu­dents live 20 km or more from school.
  • Com­mut­ing dis­tance can be one of the fac­tors deter­min­ing how stu­dents pick their cours­es. Stu­dents may group class­es togeth­er, thus avoid­ing ear­ly morn­ing and late night cours­es but also affect­ing whether they avoid tak­ing class­es on Mon­days and Fri­days.

“The Stu­dent­Move­TO sur­vey shows that many stu­dents are spend­ing a large por­tion of their day trav­el­ing to and from cam­pus,” said U of T’s asso­ciate pro­fes­sor of geog­ra­phy Mat­ti Siemi­aty­c­ki, one of the lead researchers on the sur­vey. “The aver­age one-way trip to cam­pus takes 40 min­utes, with many stu­dents mak­ing much longer trips. One-third of stu­dents spend two hours or more com­mut­ing to and from cam­pus.”

The sur­vey, launched in Sep­tem­ber 2015, found that the more time stu­dents spend com­mut­ing, the less time they have to engage in cam­pus life and aca­d­e­m­ic and extracur­ric­u­lar activ­i­ties.

“Trans­porta­tion is direct­ly impact­ing the edu­ca­tion­al expe­ri­ence of stu­dents,” Siemi­aty­c­ki said. “Two-thirds of stu­dents with longer com­mutes – over an hour each way – are pick­ing cours­es that are grouped togeth­er to min­i­mize the num­ber of times they have to come to cam­pus per week. They are thus poten­tial­ly miss­ing out on learn­ing oppor­tu­ni­ties that occur at times that are not con­ve­nient for them. By not com­ing to cam­pus as fre­quent­ly, they may also be miss­ing out on the extracur­ric­u­lar activ­i­ties that enhance the uni­ver­si­ty expe­ri­ence.”

The trans­porta­tion sur­vey came out of an effort by the pres­i­dents of the four uni­ver­si­ties to part­ner on joint ini­tia­tives aimed at improv­ing the state of the city-region, iden­ti­fy­ing stu­dent mobil­i­ty as a com­mon con­cern for their stu­dent bod­ies. The sur­vey was devel­oped by a team of researchers includ­ing Siemi­aty­c­ki, Pro­fes­sors Roger Keil at York Uni­ver­si­ty, Rak­tim Mitra at Ryer­son and Isabel Meirelles at OCAD U, and doc­tor­al can­di­date Chris Hard­ing at the Uni­ver­si­ty of Toron­to.

Stu­dents attend­ing the GTA’s four uni­ver­si­ties make up over 184,000 com­muters who trav­el dai­ly to get to and from school, to work, to social activ­i­ties and back home. Their size alone puts a sig­nif­i­cant impact on a crowd­ed trans­porta­tion sys­tem, espe­cial­ly since all four uni­ver­si­ties have a high num­ber of stu­dents who live off cam­pus and trav­el dai­ly to school and jobs. The insti­tu­tions are also stretched across the region, with both down­town and sub­ur­ban cam­pus­es, and con­tribute sig­nif­i­cant­ly to the urban region as cor­ner­stones of the knowl­edge econ­o­my.

The sur­vey results will be made avail­able to uni­ver­si­ty admin­is­tra­tors, fac­ul­ty, stu­dents and city offi­cials to bet­ter under­stand the trav­el pat­terns of an impor­tant con­stituen­cy that uses the trans­porta­tion sys­tem dai­ly. The data will help city plan­ners bet­ter include the needs of stu­dents in their trans­porta­tion plans and ser­vices.

The data can be found online at


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