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Twice the pain: Service cuts and bigger hike on way?

A double whammy of service cuts and higher fares could be coming down on straphangers given the MTA’s new budget shortfall.

Now that the agency has a new $400 million gap, some MTA board members are leaning towards OKing unpopular service cuts proposed last month plus an even bigger hike than the 7.5 percent increase already agreed upon for next year.

“You spread the pain that way,” one MTA board member said.

Mayor Michael Bloomberg also said that the MTA should enact a combination of service cuts and fare hikes if lawmakers don’t come through with a fix with the agency’s unexpected $400 million in revenue loss.

“We have to have a funding source,” Bloomberg said during a question-and-answer session.

The MTA doesn’t intend to raise fares this year, and officials haven’t discussed increasing next year’s hike “at this point,” its spokesman Jeremy Soffin said.

At a rally Thursday, elected officials, the main transit union and advocates called on the MTA to help plug the hole with $140 million in stimulus and capital funds.

“It’s time to get over their fear. Use stimulus funds to save the service cuts,” said Gene Russianoff, of the Straphangers Campaign.

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