In Beijing I had it easy with a 15 minute walk to the subway, 35 minute subway ride, then 13 minute walk to the office. At school, it's a very scenic 15 minute walk to campus where all my classes are close to each other. In high school, I had friends who had to catch the SIR from Tottenville to the ferry and ride the ferry into South Ferry, and take the 1 train up to Chamber st for high school. All to get there at like 8:00 or 7:30ish. I can only imagine that's nearly a 4 hour round trip commute for high school. The ones who took the express bus didn't save much time, but it was good for sleeping. I had an easy 30 minute 2/3 train ride.
In Beijing, if I felt like abusing my intern privileges I sometimes waited out rush hour and caught a quick 30 minute cab--I also left an hour or two early sometimes to skip the afternoon rush hour. Otherwise the Beijing 1 line rush hour packing is awful in the summer heat, especially if you get the train without air conditioning.