Ryerson’s commuter students face unique struggle

commuter story features

The “beach” floor at Ryerson’s Student Learning Centre is a popular spot to relax, but some still find Ryerson doesn’t have enough space for its commuter students. (Bianca Guzzo/ Ryersonian Staff)

By Bianca Guzzo

A long break between classes may sound like you’ve won the student jackpot, but some of Ryerson’s commuter students are finding it challenging to pass the time when they’re not hitting the books.

With a campus in the middle of downtown Toronto, there may seem like a lot to do, but for some students, that’s not always the case.

Fourth-year Ryerson English student Victoria Crescenzi says she usually brings homework when she’s not in class, but frequently shops the nearby Eaton Centre on her long breaks between classes.

Crescenzi says she is frustrated with the window of opportunity to get downtown since her choices are limited to before noon.

“On Thursdays my only class doesn’t start until 6 p.m. and the last bus leaving from a nearby station (in Vaughan) is at 11:55, so I’m at school five hours before class even starts,” she said.

According to the 2014 National Survey of Student Engagement, of the undergraduates surveyed, 80 per cent of students identified as commuters. Of those who identified as commuter students, about 56 per cent said they traveled 41 to 80 minutes to get from their place of residence to campus.

The data also suggests that the majority of commuter students surveyed also miss out on campus events, clubs and student group involvement that they could take part in if they lived closer to campus.

Although Crescenzi doesn’t have a particularly long commute, service from her area is restricted, which limits her freedom to scheduling time around her spaced out schedule.

With Ryerson’s campus being downtown, a lot of students come from Toronto’s surrounding suburbs to attend classes. A long break between classes leaves some commuting students feeling somewhat trapped, as a trip home between classes would be pointless and a waste of transit money.

Though it is not yet clear exactly just how many of Ryerson’s students are commuters, studies are in progress to find out this information.

Assistant professor of urban planning Raktim Mitra says an upcoming survey will hopefully collect more data on how students are spending their time getting to campus.

“Most universities collect their own data on student travel, but that data for the most part is focused only on a student’s commute to and from school,” he said.

“The purpose is to enable students, people, policy makers to understand travel needs, and act on it.”

Mitra says the plan once the data is collected is to release it to the public so that they can understand what the needs are and then start making demands to their schools and transportation agencies to act on these needs.

The data of Ryerson’s commuter students could launch a number of services that to help students that travel in and out of the city for classes. The University of Toronto has an off campus student association that regularly connects their commuter students to events and resources on campus they would otherwise miss living away from school.

“Commuting takes a lot out of you, makes the day longer, and makes me tired,” Crescenzi said.

Though Ryerson may not have an association for their commuter students, last year’s addition of the Student Learning Centre has added a major spot on campus for students to spend their time between classes. With quiet floors for studying, or social floors, like the popular “beach floor” students can set down their bags and relax while still being connected to Ryerson Wi-Fi.

Crescenzi says she wishes there could be changes to the way Ryerson accommodates their commuter students, but since Ryerson has so many students and people will continue to commute, nothing will likely change.


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