GOOD MORNING from your friendly (and unfriendly) drivers of buses and subways, who bring you tidings of higher fares as they head merrily toward their newly awarded generous pay increases. This morning, but not getting totally into place until Monday, the cost of transit is up. As usual, it takes a decoding ring and a roads scholar to figure by how much, but at least Metro General Manager Richard S. Page did snatch one small victory from the jaws of inflation defeat: for the first time ever, there will be a uniform basic minimum bus an subway fare anywhere in the system, of 60 cents.

Beyond that, though, and this means different things at different times of the day or distances, you're on your own -- the various members of the Metro board aren't ready to make it too easy. For starters, today is a Metro melange, with bus fares still unchanged, with rush-hour service -- but not the higher rush-hour fares -- and with off-hour fares that will vary in certain subway stations because the machines can't all be switched in time. By Sunday the buses will be on the new fares, and by Monday the entire new fare schedule will be in place.

At least these fare changes also include some new discount arrangements for flashpasses and a package deal on tokens, which should help to ease some of the strain. But before you can say Pfanstiehl, we'll probably be staring at another increase -- and, if Congress and the state and local authorities respond, maybe those big cost-of-living guarantees for Metro employees can be scaled down to meet reality.