The MTA is dangling an option for commuters to (strap)hang onto fares closer to what they pay now: switch over to MetroCards or pay more. Yesterday they laid out four potential proposals for fare hikes come June: a pair of options if the state adopts the Ravitch Commission suggestions and enacts a payroll tax that would only force a slight increase and another pair of alternatives that includes the Doomsday showdown of a $3 base fare (for one-way trips) versus the $103 unlimited monthly.

What do the two pairs have in common? The MTA is proposing options where using cash (specifically coins while riding buses) for one-way rides would be a costlier option than purchasing a MetroCard, thus creating an EZ Pass-like system where riders are rewarded for prepaying for their commutes. This would mark the first time using a MetroCard meant saving on base fare since the MetroCard Gold was introduced in 1997, offering riders who use both the bus and subway on their commute a long-desired free transfer.

The more Metrocard-friendly proposals also share something else in common--they would eliminate the $1.05 bonus received when buying a $7 MetroCard, meaning those who buy $7 cards could stop dreaming that their nickel bonuses will someday add up to a whole two dollar fare only to misplace that card four cycles in and lose the bonus as they start over on a new one. (You can see the different proposals in the 2nd image above.)

And how realistic is a "state bailout" of the MTA, where new legislation of a payroll tax could keep the fare hike minimal--and actually rescue the $2 fare? Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver tells the Post, "I think we're in a position to enact the payroll tax. I think it's doable on a legislative basis." Governor Paterson's office is expected to submit a bill on Ravitch's proposals early in the next legislative session.