Every day, I spend nearly four hours on the TTC. I’m from the east end and I work in west end, and travel is about two hours one way. Being underground for such a long time complicates a lot of my everyday functioning. I can’t eat, drink, or nap on the subway without a high level of anxiety. It’s grim and gloomy down there. Sometimes, I feel like I’m being buried alive in a mobile cemetery because I’m exhausted from the confinement.

Public transit has always been a hot topic for debate among politicians, media pundits, advocates, and commuters like me. But left out of most conversations has been the impact the TTC has on the mental health of Torontonians—especially those from low-income neighbourhoods with long commutes.

Long commutes are unfortunately a commonality that many people who live in the suburbs have learned to accept and endure. A poll conducted by Forum Research in 2013 found residents of Scarborough have an average commute length of 49 minutes. By comparison, those who live in the City have an average commute of 39 minutes. Six out of 10 surveyed in this poll of more than 1,500 residents said their quality of life—that is, time spent with family, going to the gym, and relaxing—was reduced as a result of their commute.

Wendy Le, a first-year university student who lives in the western part of North York, has a commute of up to two hours as she often travels downtown and to Scarborough for school. As a result of her commute and school schedule, Wendy doesn’t participate in extracurricular activities.

“The exhaustion I feel after some morning commutes affects me because there are a lot of things to tackle during the day, and that requires energy and concentration…[with my] commute, the quality of [my school work] gets compromised,” she explains.

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