- The experiment to have subway riders use their cell phones to pay for fares is ramping up. amNew York reports that one of the trial's sponsors, Citigroup, is looking for willing guinea pigs (suckers?) to participate. Here's how it works:

The three-to-six-month trial is limited to people who are both existing Citi MasterCard holders and Cingular Wireless subscribers. Interested riders need to sign-up at www.nyctrial.com by Dec. 21, Semenchuk said.

Several hundred people will get the free Nokia 613X, a prototype phone embedded with a radio chip that will communicate with the turnstile. The phone will work as a "mobile wallet" and can be used as a regular phone as well as for credit-card purchases at 30,000 participating vendors nationwide. But testers will have to give the phone back at the end of the trial, Semenchuk warned.

MasterCard began testing its PayPass smart card system along the Lexington Line in July. Eligible cardholders received special key chains. The companies, not the MTA, are funding the trial phase.

That's lame, about returning the phone. But what is cool is that if you pre-pay for 10 rides, you can get the 20% discount. But no word on unlimited monthly or weekly cards still (how difficult can that be, anyway?).

- It's a vote for capitalism as a judge ruled that businesses can sue the MTA over revenue they lost because of last year's transit strike. Some establishments like the Russian Samovar and Cupping Room have sued, but now we wonder if this opens up the floodgates to even more suits.

- Yesterday, the NY Sun got to know future MTA CEO and executive director Elliott "Lee" Sander in an interview. Sander will probably become the MTA chairman when (if!) Peter Kalikow steps down, and his appointment has been welcomed by both City Council Transportation Committee chair John Liu as well as the Straphangers Campaign. Here's a bit of the interview. Sander made a point of saying he won't be chauffeured to work and that he'll actually take the subway - not to mention actually go into the office, unlike Kalikow. Ha! But he did emphasize, "I will be a full-time employee, and I'm not independently wealthy," a nod to Kalikow's $1 salary. (Sander continued his "man of the people" and "I'm a straphanger, too" approach in the Daily News today.)

We just really like the MTA Beanie Bears - just $7 (could be a great stocking stuffer)