Commuting to college: the struggles and advantages

Trinity News looks at the issues students face on their daily commute to college, from financial to health and wellbeing

Commuting is a fact of life for many students at Trinity. Attending university in many countries is tied to taking that big step and moving out of the family home. In Ireland, however, if you’re from a region with a university, many people end up commuting for the duration of their degree, even continuing to do so once they start to work. The proportion of young Irish adults living with their parents is much higher than levels seen in the UK, France, Germany, and most Scandinavian countries. It is, however, far lower than rates seen in Spain, Italy, and Greece. In Vienna, housing is far more affordable, with rental caps allowing the average rent to stand at around €300 to €400 per month. This difference in the cost of rent allows for most students in Vienna to move out upon commencing university.

“According to a study by the Saint Louis University School of Medicine in Missouri, commuting over 16km per day seriously increases your risk of anxiety and depression.”

Commuting to Trinity for a degree can be tiring. Although some journeys are quite short when compared to those that other commuters face, it still takes a toll. Speaking to Trinity News, a student who spoke on the condition of anonymity said that in order to make a 9am class, he must leave home at 8.05am to make it in time for the 8.19am train to Pearse Station. This means that two hours of each day are spent on travelling to and from College.

Commuting can have seriously negative health impacts. According to a study by the Saint Louis University School of Medicine in Missouri, commuting over 16km per day seriously increases your risk of anxiety and depression. They argue that this is triggered by increased social isolation and a fear of being delayed, and therefore, arriving late for work or college. Social isolation is something that students speaking to Trinity News said they can relate to. It’s not uncommon to find oneself trying to decide at 11.15pm whether to run for the last bus or DART home or to fork out for a taxi.

“Not only is Dublin failing to provide affordable housing, but it is also failing to provide affordable public transport options for commuting students.”

For some students, attending events in the evening requires careful planning and is not always feasible. Another UK study by the Office of National Statistics found that people with a commute of longer than 30 minutes each way reported a much lower quality of life, as well as higher blood pressure rates. Prolonged high blood pressure levels can lead to cardiovascular problems later in life. Living at home can also lead to a lack of independence and can make it harder to get involved in College life. There are, of course, some positives. Many students can save money, receive greater family support, enjoy a greater number of home-cooked meals, and get to stay in contact with friends from home. Commuting may also reduce greater stresses, such as balancing part-time jobs in order to pay high rents.

Along with the emotional and physical cost of commuting, there is also the financial cost of commuting. An average commute costs approximately €100 per month, but for students who commute from outside of the Dublin area, it seems that many spend upwards of €200 per month. Not only is Dublin failing to provide affordable housing, but it is also failing to provide affordable public transport options for commuting students. In fact, student leap card fares are sometimes similar in price to what high earners pay for public transport through the Tax Saver Commuter Scheme, thanks to the huge tax relief they receive from using public transport. The child leap card weekly fare cap for Irish Rail services in Dublin is €12.50. For students, however, it is €27. This is a huge jump in cost for many students, who just like those using the child leap card, may be unemployed and dependent on their parents. Then, of course, most adults over the age of 66 receive a Free Travel Pass.

Trinity News caught up with Ross Hunter, a final year Psychology student who commutes from Ratoath in Co. Meath. It’s a distance of about 26 km and his bus journey takes about an hour each way, costing €7.20 return. Ross is extremely upbeat about his commute. He says that he sees the stress that finding accommodation causes his friends and is happy that he doesn’t have to pay the high rents. However, his days are long. He wakes up at 6am and doesn’t make it home before 9pm on most days. Ross stresses the other positives of living at home, like being able to get away from city life and having good home-cooked meals. However, he didn’t always feel this way, stating: “Starting college, I found it difficult to settle in. My bus came relatively infrequently and I couldn’t stay for evening society events or nights out. This made it harder to meet people and make new friends.”

Christiana Ahearne, a third year German and Italian student, commutes from Roundwood, Co. Wicklow. Roundwood is about 40km from Trinity, and Christiana spends three to four hours commuting each day. Her commute costs €10 per day and is heavily dependent on traffic. On top of this, her bus only runs twice per day. It leaves Roundwood at 7am, arriving in Dublin shortly after 9am and leaves Dublin at 6pm to return to Roundwood. This means that when Christiana has a 5pm lecture, she has to leave early in order to make her bus. When she has a 9am class, she has to ask her parents for a lift to Bride’s Glen Luas stop or she won’t make it to class on time with the 7am bus. She says that her social life has pretty much gone down the drain since she started commuting, going out requires planning in advance and she is dependent on her parents for lifts from the Luas. Christiana’s parents are very supportive of her moving out. Unfortunately, though, she has been unable to find any accommodation. She describes an ad she saw for digs that cost €600 a month, Monday to Friday, with no access to a kitchen or washing machine.

Dublin is essentially a student city, with several well known universities located here. Due to the lack of affordable housing, however, along with increased and exploitative transportation costs, many are left discouraged to pursue higher education here.