The MTA is facing a budget shortfall of at least $400 million this year, but when the state legislature bailed them out last year, the Authority promised not to hike fares more than 7.5%. So now MTA officials are trying to find a way to cover the shortfall without increasing the $2.25 base fare, and they've come up with some creative solutions! One option would add a $1 surcharge for customers who buy a new MetroCard instead of refilling their old MetroCard.

"It would provide an incentive to hold on to the card," once anonymous MTA source tells the Post. Another says, "When I see what it costs to produce MetroCards, it's not efficient, and it makes me sick when I see them strewn across the floor at stations." Another source of revenue under consideration is putting limits on unlimited MetroCards, capping the number of rides allowed on weekly and monthly cards. In addition, $27 weekly MetroCards would rise by about 4%, and $89 monthly cards would increase to almost $100.

Responding to these leaks to the tabloid, an MTA spokesman tells us, "The rescue agreement reached with the Governor and Legislature last spring called for a 7.5% increase in revenues from MTA fares and tolls in January 2011, and despite an $800 million budget shortfall caused by deteriorating tax revenues, it has always been our intention to try to adhere to this agreement. As we have consistently said, the amount of the increase must be determined in the context of our overall financial plan, which is not finalized and will be presented to the MTA Board later this month." This will be followed by public hearings, which are always a hoot.