BACK THIS MORNING from the shelves of Metro's Bad Idea Department, dusted off for consideration and fully worthy of a resounding rejection, is a proposal to charge a nickel for every bus-to-bus transfer. The objective, of course, is to raise more money at the farebox--an unpleasant but necessary pursuit in these tight times. But whatever else the Metro board may do to its wondrously complex fare structure today, this is a mean move that would penalize those with the least money and the worst transit options.

Most bus transfers occur in the city, where so many routes still zigzag and meander along old patterns laid down 40-plus years ago. Even with a subway system, domestic workers and others with low incomes and high dependence on public transportation are the people whose commutes don't conform to Metro's bus routes. Why should anyone be penalized just because his shortest distance is between two points that aren't on the same bus line?

The District Council's appointees to the Metro board, as well as the representatives from Arlington County, have been opposing the transfer charge, but support from other board members is necessary to kill this plan and move on to better methods of raising revenues. As the board members all know only too well, whenever fares go up, ridership drops off--at least to some degree and for awhile. But even when this is a necessary risk, it is a delicate balancing act, and the last thing it needs is an unfair and illogical move that drives still more people to cars while punishing Metro's captive and increasingly hapless riders.