Crisis is fueling more fare dodging

One in four Athenian commuters travel without a validated ticket, according to estimates by the Athens Urban Transport Organization (OASA) and the Infrastructure, Transport and Networks Ministry, which attribute the rise in fare-dodging to the repercussions of the financial crisis and to a lack of inspections. Dimitris Dimitriou, president of OASA, estimated that between 20 and 25 percent of commuters avoid buying a ticket. This percentage drops to 5 percent for those using the metro and the Piraeus-Kifissia urban electric railway (ISAP), as these modes of transport are relatively restricted, making it harder for would-be offenders to get away. OASA does not have a complete picture of fare evasion for 2009 but, according to its figures for 2008, such behavior cost the organization around 40 million euros, nearly double the 18-million-euro figure recorded for 2006. Dimitriou said that OASA aimed to improve this record by training 158 new inspectors, expected to start work at the end of the month. Experts estimate that a force of 500 inspectors is necessary to do an effective job of cracking down on offenders on the various modes of transport operating in the capital. At the moment, random checks on the 1,800 buses and the 200 trolley buses in circulation in the greater Athens area are conducted by 24 inspectors and 230 drivers who are not specially trained for the job. The Athens metro is the best covered, with 90 inspectors, while the tram has 20. Last month, OASA revealed that the number of passengers using public transport in the capital increased by 2 percent in the first three months of the year. The highest increase was recorded by Athens blue buses. In the first quarter of this year, approximately 2 million more passengers opted for this form of transport compared to the same period in 2009.