My role: Designer
Space: Toronto
Time: Mar 2018

When I need to get from one place to the next, I often rely on public transport. It is the alternative that is cost-effective and environment-friendly. As a result, everyone has taken public transport at some point in their lives. Living in Toronto, I use the Toronto Transit Commission, commonly known as TTC. The TTC isn’t perfect, there are a lot of issues with the fare system, technology often fails, and it’s infested with delays. Almost every morning I take the subway, I hear about delays, whether that is due to track issues or medical emergencies. Public transit is not about getting someone from one place to another, it is about moving people through time. The experience is inverse with time: the longer it takes for someone to get to their destination, the less enjoyable the experience of the ride is. I was frustrated almost daily due to all the delays the subway had. For the month of January in 2018, I recorded the length of my subway journey.

Each individual box represents 5 mins of time. A string of these represents the amount of time per day it takes for me to commute in the TTC subway. Each string is labelled with the date. The first one on the left represents the time of my commute on January 3, 2018. There are 5 boxes, therefore my commute was 25 minutes long. Each string represents one day and uses colour to encode how it compares to the average. Anything yellow is when the commute time was equal to the average, which is 25 minutes. Anything green is when time is below the average, and blue is above average. Just less than half of the days I commute was over the average. There was one day when the TTC got out of hand. On January 30, Line 1 subway was in total chaos. My commute was 75 minutes long! The platforms were crowded with people risking the chance of someone falling onto the tracks. I was on the train heading south to Union and we got kicked off at St. Clair West station. I had to wait for 3 trains to pass by before I could board it. It was quite a sight as to how bad things really got.

What public transportation means to me can be put into one word: trust. Looking at my commute times, the one thing I can say for sure is that it is very unreliable. The consistency of commute time lies in its inconsistency. This leads me to lack trust in the TTC. It is so hard to build trust, but so easy to break it. I have only arrived on time or earlier 60% of the time. Arriving late 40% of the time was more than enough times for me to not trust the TTC. In fact, it felt like it was over 50% of the time I was late. I was surprised to find that it was only 40% of the time for January.

As much as I don’t enjoy my commuting experience, it’s one of the only times I get to see the huge range of people that live in Toronto. I see the latest fashion trends, hear people talk about the hottest shows airing, or listen to teenagers talk about their crushes. I sometimes get lucky and hear a language I have never heard before. I have spent countless hours reflecting on my life on the TTC, it is a time when I can tune out and just listen to my mind. I have read an entire novel just using my commute time. During one of my trips, I saw four people simultaneously stand up to give their seat to an older woman. Everyone stood to help a stranger. Although the TTC isn’t perfect, it’s still part of what defines the city I love.

Behind the Scenes

I hit a lot of walls figuring out the form of the data. I knew I wanted to do something with paper and origami. But I didn’t know how it would look like. I went on the National Geographic website and looked through 5 photos to get inspiration. Two of them stuck out. The first is the photo of an elephant. I was inspired by the ridges in its trunk. The trunk gave me the idea for boxes or squares I wanted to link together. The second image was of someone climbing an icy cliff. I really liked the angle of the photo. So I decided to incorporate that into my photos and take the shots at an angle from above. This created an interesting perspective and allowed the viewer to see dimensions. When I found the YouTube tutorial I needed to fold the shapes I wanted, it took me about 5 minutes to fold each unit. It took me many weekends and nights to get all the folding done. After that, the challenge was figuring how to place the pieces for the photo shoot. I tried to hang them off of a laundry drying rack, which I hooked to my chair to keep the pieces hanging low. It was quite bizarre when I was setting this up. I then had the problem with not having the appropriate backdrop as the white boards I had were too small. So I had the crazy idea to rip up magazines as the backdrop. The photos didn’t turn out well. The final solution I had was to use chopsticks and thumbtacks, which I stuck to the walls. This solved all my problems. I had a backdrop that was large enough (the wall), and I was still able to suspend the pieces so I could take the shot from above. Overall, this project was a good lesson on trial and error.