The new MTA chief is pushing a plan to offer discounts for bus and subway riders on weekends and late nights. MTA CEO Jay Walder has been making a big splash since taking over the job earlier this month, talking to the media about a number of big ideas, such as installing cameras on buses to bust bus lane blockers and introducing a no-swipe MetroCard that would double as a debit card. In an exclusive interview with the Times yesterday, he revealed his latest crazy scheme.

Cities like London, where Walder was previously the transit chief, already offer off-peak fares. And similar to London, New York's version of the smart card would also calculate the cheapest fare for straphangers based on how much they ride, according to the Post. The MTA has allocated $220 million to install a smart card payment system, and the Times reports Walder was "emphatic" when discussing the revised fare structure: "You can see creative and innovative things that would happen with this." Creative and innovative? Who is this guy!?

But not everyone is pumped about encouraging off-peak ridership. Andrew Albert, a nonvoting board member and chairman of the New York City Transit Riders Council, tells the Times, "You really already have some crushed loads at off-peak periods. London is not necessarily the same as New York." Since the unlimited-ride MetroCard was introduced in 1998, ridership on weekdays has increased by 40 percent, and weekend ridership has risen almost 70 percent.

In the past, Walder has insisted that such a variable pricing system "should be an absolutely revenue-neutral policy." And yesterday he said that the off-peak pricing discount would definitely not be accompanied by an increase for peak fares. But Walder would not rule out an overall fare increase, and the MTA faces a budget shortfall of approximately $113 million, according to Governor Paterson's estimate. A change to the fare system would require approval from the transportation authority’s board, which is dominated by mayoral and governor appointees.