A ride on the subway is fast becoming a luxury item: Today the MTA Finance Committee voted to approve a package of steep fare hikes that would increase the cost of a single subway or bus ride from $2 to $2.50. In addition to the base fare increase, the cost of a 30-day unlimited-ride MetroCard would go up to $103 (from $81), while a weekly unlimited-ride MetroCard would increase $6 to $31. The full MTA board will vote on the fare increases Wednesday, and the changes will likely go into effect in June unless legislators in Albany can come to terms on a bailout package for the MTA.

One alternative plan being batted around Albany would feature a smaller, 8 percent fare increase, tolls on the East River and Harlem River bridges, and a payroll tax on businesses in counties served by the MTA. Testifying before the committee, Gene Russianoff at the Straphangers Campaign called the fare hikes "ugly" and criticized the State Senate's bailout plan for "failing to address the transit system’s rebuilding needs."

Speaking to reporters this morning, Governor Paterson admitted that he's all but given up on reaching a bailout solution before the MTA's Wednesday deadline: "I don't think that the agency should delay any action. This is a deadline that they set and was known to all parties. I've been trying to reach an agreement for the past two weeks. I've talked to these leaders every day. . . and have also talked to the MTA board members who will be voting in a couple of days."