COMMUNITY

Public transport: lack of cash and jobs keeps Greeks at home

By Alexandra Kassimi

A drop in the number of passengers, a reduction in the number of ticket validations and a rise in the fines imposed for fare dodging: This is the picture of the Greek crisis as experienced on the capital’s buses, trolley buses, metro, electric railway and tram systems. Experts explain that the high unemployment has contributed to the drop in traffic as increasingly fewer people travel to and from work every day, while the reduction in disposable incomes has also curbed trips for shopping and entertainment.

Data published by the Athens Transport Organization (OASA) for 2009-12 show that the total number of passengers over that period on all modes of public transport dropped by 23.3 percent, or 200 million passengers. At the same time, an increase in the number of ticket inspections revealed a surge in fare dodging, though the exact number is hard to ascertain.

In July 2013, OASA said that 6,009 fines totaling 306,282 euros were imposed for fare dodging. Inspections almost came to halt the following month after a young man died while trying to escape being caught by an inspector on a trolley bus near central Athens, sparking widespread public outrage amid allegations that the inspector had been heavy-handed with the youth after finding that he did not have a ticket. Fear of backlash from the public prompted authorities to stop almost all inspections through early September, after which they began again in fits and starts.

That month, inspectors issued 6,076 fines totaling 318,432 euros, while in October the number of fare dodgers caught shot up to 11,195 and fines of 572,676 euros were imposed. This rise in fines is attributed to efforts to make inspections more efficient. From November through mid-December 2013 the number of fines stood at 8,058, worth 405,000 euros.

On the metro, the ISAP electric railway and the tram, the total number of fines from January to September 2013 came to 1.16 million euros compared to 884,039 euros in the same period in 2012, representing a rise of 31 percent. Including buses and trolley buses, fines rose 22.94 percent in January-September 2013 from the same period in the previous year to reach 3.2 million euros.

OASA expects to generate more revenues this year from fines on fare dodgers by hiring 70 more inspectors for the Greek capital’s metro, electric railway and tram systems, who will not only check tickets on the trains and trams but also on platforms.

Online