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Metrolinx allows employees to ride for free.Fred Lum/The Globe and Mail

The regional transit agency Metrolinx is reviewing its long-standing policy of letting staff ride without paying, and to bring along a guest for free.

Because of fare-by-distance charges, the perk could be a significant bonus for employees living far from the city. For example, a staff member commuting daily to the Metrolinx headquarters in downtown Toronto from Kitchener could save more than $12,000 a year in GO Transit costs.

Metrolinx spokeswoman Anne Marie Aikins said the policy was intended to encourage transit use among employees, letting them act as eyes and ears on the system, and to allow them to introduce others to the GO system.

"It helps that our staff are customers, so they can think like a customer," she said.

Ms. Aikins noted that other transit agencies also allow staff to ride without paying. The Toronto Transit Commission is one of those, with spokesman Brad Ross confirming that TTC employees can board free by showing their pass.

"While I understand that many transit systems offer similar benefits to their employees, I think it's important for Metrolinx to lead by example," Transportation Minister Steven Del Duca said in a statement e-mailed by his office. "That's why I'm encouraged to know they will be reviewing their policies on this matter."

The Metrolinx policy was grandfathered from the days before GO Transit became a unit of the regional agency. It was being considered for review before it was raised recently in the media,Ms. Aikins said, part of a regular look at old policies. It is not known how long the review will take and the policy will remain in place as it is under way.

Employees of Metrolinx were able to gain access to the GO system with their staff identity pass and were able to bring a guest, which was intended to be a way for an employee to give someone the chance to try GO. Ms. Aikins said the guest feature was intended for "occasional" use only.

Employees' use cannot easily be tracked because their access pass does not require them to tap in and out of the system, as the Presto card does. So it can't be known how often the perk was used. And only vigilance on the part of other staff would prevent an employee from regularly bringing the same guest.

"We don't believe [the system] is being abused," Ms. Aikins said.