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Commuters board a TTC subway at Kennedy Station in Scarborough.

KEVIN VAN PAASSEN/THE GLOBE AND MAIL

Toronto's transit is moving toward changing the rules around transfers, looking at offering more flexibility to riders at a cost of up to $20-million annually.

The commission voted Tuesday to study allowing riders paying a single fare to make multiple stops on an outing or to do a round trip, within a set period of time. The shift to time-based transfers would be unlikely to come before a smart-card fare system is rolled out, though.

"It's really setting the organization up to make Presto implementation easier," Councillor Karen Stintz said after presiding over her final meeting as TTC chair.

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Transit CEO Andy Byford, who said that a staff report on the idea could be ready within months, called time-based transfers "certainly easier to understand for customers."

Such a shift would be expected to mean an overall loss of revenue, as some existing riders would no longer have to pay for all parts of their trips. Allowing 90 minutes of use on a single transfer was projected to cost $12-million annually. Allowing two hours would mean an estimated $20-million hit.

"Now, we don't have $20-million to spare," said Mr. Byford, who is currently battling for more funds for the cash-strapped transit service. "That is something that we would need to look for by way of increased subsidy."

The new system would also be expected to attract more customers but those numbers still need to be modelled, the TTC says. Increases will be a burden on the crowded system but Ms. Stintz said they are working to ease to crush.

"We know we need to do more for crowding," she said. "Which is why we have bigger subway cars, we're putting in a new signalling system, we've got new streetcars and we've got new buses."

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