As Martha Lucas waited for a bus yesterday morning near the 11th Street Bridge, she wore an air of resignation.

If Metro goes through with its proposal to raise bus and subway fares, Lucas said, she plans to raise a fit. But when all was said and done, she would pay the fare.

Like many Washington area residents, Lucas says she has no choice.

"It's forced on us," said Lucas, who was on her way home from D.C. General Hospital, where she is a nurse. "We have no alternative. We've got to pay it or we don't have transportation. It's going to hurt a lot of people. It's going to hurt me because I may not have the money."

Most of about 30 people interviewed yesterday at bus stops, on Metro trains and in subway stations said they were angry about Metro's proposed 18 percent increase in bus and rail fares, which would raise the base fare on trains and buses from 85 cents to $1. However, many said they would grudgingly pay the extra costs, either because they don't earn enough to own a car, or because they don't want to drive in an area where 1.4 million motorists already are on the roads each day.

Ruby Long, a bank teller who rides Metrorail from the Braddock Road station in Alexandria to Bethesda each morning, said she hated the potential increase, but would pay it because: "I'm a prisoner of the system for now. It costs me $5 a day to go to work . . . . But what do you do?"

Jacquie Roberts, 31, of Silver Spring, said she too was upset by the proposed increase, but noted that riding Metro "is cheaper than taking a cab . . . and finding parking in Washington is unheard of."

On Thursday, Metro officials proposed a $668 million budget that calls for putting more of the burden of financing the transit system on riders, who account each day for 1 million bus and rail trips, and easing the pressure on local governments to increase operating subsidies. The subsidies from local governments would rise 3 percent under the budget proposal.

The budget, which requires approval by the Metro board before it could take effect on July 1, is one of Metro's leanest in years, reflecting the regional transit agency's struggle to cope with rising fuel costs and lower revenue from falling ridership.

An 18 percent fare increase would be the largest rise in the minimum fare since the rail system began operating in 1976. Officials said fares for other trips also would change, by amounts to be determined later. In 1989, the base fare rose a nickel. Metro officials project a 5 percent drop in ridership after fares go up.

The fare increase proposal comes at a time when only the economy appears to be heading downward, commuters said yesterday. People said their rents are going up, as are the costs of food, utilities and clothing. Many said they are out of work or on the brink of losing their jobs. Some said yesterday the proposed fare increase is just another example of the way governments and the private sector are squeezing them for more money.

"Some people can barely see ends meet, then they have to pay a dollar to catch the bus," said Tammy Bryant, 27, a porter at a Northwest Washington law firm. Bryant leaves home at 6:30 a.m. to catch the first of her three buses. "I'm upset, but I have no choice. It's hard enough on us blacks, then they go and raise the bus fare."

Jon Butler, 35, a bus driver for D.C. schools, said he was peeved by the fare increase, not so much because he can't afford the extra 15 cents, but because bus service is so bad.

Butler said he sometimes has to wait 30 minutes for buses that should run by his stop at Minnesota Avenue and Benning Road NE every 15 minutes. "I hate it," he said. "They seem to think, for some reason, people who catch the bus on this side of the {Anacostia} river don't care about service."

Butler said he knows a lot of people who don't have 15 cents to pay the increased fare. "It's going to be hard on the lady on public assistance," he said. "Eighty-five cents as opposed to a dollar, that 15 cents is like a potato. Say she takes five round trips a week, 10 times 15 is $1.50. That's a sack of potatoes."

Butler looked up as his bus turned the corner. It drove right past the bus stand where he was waiting and stopped about a half block up the hill. He and three other people ran up the hill to catch it.

Some subway riders interviewed yesterday said they would still use Metro despite the fare increase because the system is efficient and using it is preferable to driving.

"I'm from New York City and am used to those subways," said lawyer Erik J. Williams, 27, who commutes from Ballston to his job in the District. "This is a vast improvement."

Others said the fare increase would lead them to car pool, drive alone or walk.

Dennis Morgan, 45, a supermarket meat cutter, was standing at Naylor Road and 28th Street SE. "They are going to take it up to a dollar? Everybody can't afford a dollar," he said. "I'd walk before I have to pay a dollar."

Morgan thought about it, looked at his watch, then glanced up the street for the bus, which was late. "In fact," he said, "I'm going to start walking now." And he did.

Staff writer Evelyn Hsu contributed to this report.