Toward the end of every year, it seems warnings resume anew about an inevitable fare increase for subway riders.

The discussion between the transit authority, politicians, union groups, and advocacy organizations feels almost scripted.

MTA: Remember that $32 billion we borrowed over the last 25 years? Well, the bill’s coming due. Time to raise fares.

Governor Spitzer: On behalf of all of the low-income workers in New York City, this is an injustice! There must be something we can do. As you know, my proposed legislation to give driver’s licenses to illegal immigrants failed, so I am jumping on the "no fare increase" bandwagon to divert all of that bad publicity.

Straphangers Campaign: Can’t the MTA wait at least until March 2008 to raise fares? That’s when they submit their five-year, multi-billion dollar capital rebuilding plan for approval. Seems kind of short-sighted to ask for an increase now. Anyone?

Mayor Bloomberg: No comment.

MTA: Wait just a minute! What do we have here? Looks like we found $220 million laying around in this old shoebox marked "Extra money." Guess we don’t need to increase fares in 2008 after all.

Governor Spitzer: Whew! But come to think of it, Albany is running at a $4.3 billion defecit. We should at least raise the unlimited Metrocard fares. Four percent seems like just the right amount not to ruffle any feathers.

Straphangers Campaign: Well that about does it. See you this time next year.

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