Transition into Transit with Nawid Fatahi from WSP

By: Samantha Maurice

With the summer months behind us, it’s time to embrace the fall season and all that comes with it (personally, I am so excited for leather jacket season)! But aside from fall fashion, fall is a great season to explore and try alternative, sustainable commuting options and learn new routes before winter begins. I know, sometimes this is easier said than done, but even trying a different mode of transportation once a week can alter your perception of commuting and show you that there are other options out there to get to and from work. 

We’ve all had moments where something or someone enters your life and suddenly your entire perception changes. For Nawid Fatahi, the Smart Commute program has made a huge difference in how he commutes from Toronto’s downtown core to the City of Markham. In 2017, Nawid Fatahi participated in Smart Commute MRH’s Transit Pilot Project, which encouraged WSP employees who normally drove alone to work to try taking public transit for five months using a preloaded $15 PRESTO card provided by Smart Commute MRH. At the beginning of each month, Smart Commute MRH, in partnership with York Region Transit, reloaded an additional $15 for each participant in hopes of creating lasting commuter behaviour change.

In five short months, Nawid went from being a single-occupant vehicle driver to a full-time transit user; even selling his car as he no longer felt a need to keep it. Nawid’s transit story is one of great success. It is a story that showcases just how influential Smart Commute Markham, Richmond Hill’s TDM projects are to its workplace employees. These custom TDM projects provide workplaces with the support, resources and commute information to encourage employees to not only try a sustainable mode of transportation, but change their perception of these modes. It is definitely a long lasting behaviour change! 

I had the opportunity to hear and learn more about Nawid’s incredible and successful transit story for our first installment of the Sustainable Superstar series. 

Nawid, thank you so much for taking the time to submit your commuting story for our Sustainable Superstar series. It was also great to be able to connect with you during the WSP Transit Pilot reload session! So, let’s start off with my first question. What mode of transportation do you currently use to get to WSP (600 Cochrane Drive)? 

Nawid Fatahi: The mode of transportation that I currently use to commute to my workplace is public transit. 

It’s great to hear that you take public transit to work. How frequently have you been using transit and for how long?

NF: I started using transit in May, after taking part in Smart Commute Markham, Richmond Hill’s Transit Pilot Project. It was a five month project, which allowed me to take transit instead of driving into work. Since participating in the transit pilot, I take transit three times a week and carpool the remaining two days. 

I’m so pleased to hear that the Transit Pilot has changed your view of commuting and that you take two sustainable modes of commuting throughout the week. But I have to ask, what is your motivation or reasoning to use these sustainable modes of commuting so frequently?

NF: Before I was aware of the Smart Commute program at my workplace, my only source of transportation was driving. I've lived and worked in the downtown core for seven years and haven't had to drive since then. Driving to work was getting quite stressful and when Smart Commute was introduced, I was made aware of a plausible, convenient route from home to the office. So my motivation for taking transit is to get to work stress-free and use my two hour commute productively. Now instead of looking at rear bumpers, I read on my commute and the time flies!

Since learning about the Smart Commute program, have you changed your outlook on choosing sustainable transportation, and have there been any tips or tricks you’ve learned along the way? What were the easiest and hardest to adapt to?

NF: Since I’ve only been taking transit since May, I’m not sure what tips or tricks I learned as I’m still learning! But nothing has been hard to adapt to; if anything, it has been quite convenient. I did, however, notice that since I started to commute via public transit, my car was beginning to collect a week’s worth of dust in the garage. That was when I realized I no longer needed it and made the decision to sell it. 

Since selling my car, my transportation costs have now been drastically reduced and have only added an additional 10 minutes in my commute time. I am now a happy, full-time public transit rider. 

Selling your car must have been an adjustment since you used it so often before taking transit, but it’s wonderful to hear that you’re happy with how your commute has changed. Since you’ve been taking transit since May, could you describe your route for our readers?

NF: Since I live downtown, I board the Line 1 at Bloor Station and head north to Finch Station. From there, I either take Viva Pink or YRT 300 Express.

Thanks for sharing your route with us. This will definitely help those who live downtown who may feel that driving is their only option. So what amenities or incentives does WSP offer to their employees who are choosing a sustainable mode of commuting? Does it factor into your decision to choose a sustainable mode of transportation?

NF: I believe our office has a few carpool parking spots. Other than that, I'm not quite sure if they have any other incentives. It is definitely something I will be looking into. 

It’s always wonderful to hear that workplaces do offer amenities and incentives for their employees to try sustainable modes of commuting. Is there any other pieces of advice or tips that you could offer individuals who are thinking about or are trying public transit for the first time?

NF: My advice is to give it a shot! Not only will the environment benefit from it, so will you, either from getting more time to reading something during your commute, or your daily exercise if you cycle to the office.

Nawid, it’s been such a pleasure to hear your story. I have one final question for you, if you could describe your commute in one word or sentence, what would it be?

NF: Tranquil!

I’d like to thank Nawid Fatahi for taking the time to submit his public transit story. Nawid, it was a pleasure to get the chance to connect with you to learn more about your transit story. Your transit story was refreshing to hear and a great opportunity for myself and our readers to learn more about taking public transit and the benefits that come with it. 

I’d also like to thank WSP for continuing to support the Smart Commute program and offering amenities and incentives to their employees to try sustainable modes of commuting. Your support is crucial in reducing the number of single-occupant vehicle drivers. We look forward to working together to continue this initiative.