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TTC enthusiasts turn a commute into entertainment


For two hard-working and ambitious University of Toronto students, it's not only about where they are going, but also how they get there.

Amid Toronto subway riders indifferently snoozing, reading or just staring off into space on their morning commutes, friends Audrey Amar and Erin Brassel sit at the very front of the train, talking excitedly into a handheld camera. Diehard public-transit enthusiasts and extroverts, they have turned their daily travels into a YouTube show about their shared fascination with the inner workings of the TTC.

Over the course of 2 1/2 years of filming Finch to Museum (named for the stations marking the beginning and end points of their commute), the women, both 22, have perfected their funny man/straight man routine. The fiery and slightly zany Ms. Amar plays easily off the demure, brainy Ms. Brassel. It is not hard to guess which one of them is the drama major.

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As amusing as it is for the students to document their running commentary and friendly antics, they actually aim to do far more than entertain. "We both want to make the TTC a more approachable staple of Torontonians' everyday life, instead of being a mystery that we have to trust," explained Ms. Amar. To that end, they research the history and operations of the TTC and share what they learn with their viewers.

Each episode has a featured station and theme. One focused on the prevention of TTC tragedies. "We asked people to be safe and 'turn their backs to the tracks' against suicide," Ms. Amar said. In others, they urged viewers to act with courtesy toward fellow commuters and TTC operators. "We also started branching into current events, such as the 2010 fare hike, and Rob Ford's plan to privatize the TTC," she added. One of their most popular instalments involved a ride through the Lower Bay ghost station, which has been out of regular use since 1966.

It's not all serious business, though. An upcoming episode will be about commuter fashion, and a fun one last summer had the women taking part in Improv In Toronto's subway dance party.

With graduation on the horizon, the two women look back to how they first met and started the show 27 episodes ago. "I kept on noticing this person with long, curly red hair taking the same bus as me and then running determinedly - but with a unique flair - through Finch station. So, I approached her on campus and offered to commute with her," recalled Ms. Brassel of how she and Ms. Amar became acquainted and discovered their mutual passion for public transportation.

"We realized that our conversation [in English and French, with a bit of Hebrew thrown in]on the subway involved some interesting back and forth, that it was kind of funny and might make for a good show," said Ms. Amar. "What Audrey calls 'charming banter' is really more like abuse," joked Ms. Brassel, who is usually on the receiving end of the on-camera ribbing.

The women are determined to continue producing Finch to Museum even after completing their undergraduate studies this spring. Ms. Brassel plans on pursuing a masters degree in linguistics, which has also been her undergraduate area of focus. Ms. Amar, who has majored in political science, as well as drama, hopes to be law-school-bound. Legally blind since the age of four due to a degenerative retinal condition, she has a personal interest in specializing in disability law.

They don't want to disappoint the show's several hundred regular viewers. "There are a lot of TTC enthusiasts on YouTube. They're out there," asserted Ms. Brassel. Fans can expect them to continue ending episodes with their signature exclamation of, "Good health, good luck and good commuting!" for the foreseeable future - or "as long as we have material and the subways keep running," Ms. Amar promised.

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