Four Toronto universities release findings of student transportation needs


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.

"Toronto’s universities have larger populations than most mid-size towns and have a significant impact on the urban region’s economy and daily life,” said York University Environmental Studies professor Roger Keil.

“This study will provide universities, transportation agencies and others with evidence to make better infrastructure decisions. It shows that all four universities have common transportation interests but also provides details about the differences in their students’ commutes. For example, it found that York University students have among the higher commute times, with 41 per cent spending two hours or more per day traveling to and from campus. And although there is already high transit mode use at York, 29 per cent of York students said an improvement to transit services would motivate them to change their main travel mode to campus.”

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


For more information:

York University Media Relations
Janice Walls,
416.736.2100 ext. 22101

U of T Media Relations