If you are starting to get antsy about how bad the fare hike the MTA is soon to unleash upon us all is going to be, you have good reason. State Comptroller Thomas DiNapoli today released a new report on the Authority's money situation [PDF] and while "the MTA’s finances have improved appreciably over the past two years" the cost of using its services is expected to rise three times faster than inflation! Further, "while the MTA has taken steps to hold down costs, more needs to be done to lessen the burden on riders."

On the plus side, more and more people are riding the MTA and working in the area it covers. On the downside, even with the coming fare hikes the MTA's budget just "assumes savings of $30 million in calendar years 2013 through 2015, as well as $75 million in 2016." Which is hopeful. Also?

The MTA projects baseline budget gaps of $487 million in 2013, $759 million in 2014, $1.1 billion in 2015 and $1.4 billion in 2016. Fare and toll increases account for 82 percent of the resources identified by the MTA to close these gaps over the next four years, with new management actions accounting for the remaining 18 percent.

But that won't add up to a hill of beans if the another potential problem in the MTA's books becomes reality. See, the MTA largest source of tax revenue is the Payroll Mobility Tax (expected to generate $1.5 billion in 2012 and nearly $1.8 billion by 2016) and, well, a recent court ruling being appealed by the MTA basically put that kibosh on it. So, yeah, unless Albany steps in and helps out (ha!) the MTA has a tough row to hoe in the coming years. Did we mention the MTA still doesn't have a new contract with TWU Local 100? Still, as far as DiNapoli is concerned the Authority doesn't have a bad handle on the tricky situation. So that's nice.

Wonder what hotheaded MTA Chair Joe Lhota thinks of this new report? He approves: "[It] recognizes the significant financial challenges the MTA faces in the near term, the aggressive steps we have taken to meet them, and our ongoing efforts to address longer-term challenges, including identifying funding sources for our 2015-2019 capital program," he said.