ATHENS – Already losing millions to fare dodgers because of a system that doesn’t have gates for entry, Athens’ Metro and public transportation has seen a 23.3 percent drop in use as out-of-work Greeks and people without spending money are staying home in a crushing economic crisis.
System officials have instituted heavy fines for people caught without a validated paper ticket but ridership is down on the subway as well and buses, trolleys, the electric railway and trams.
The data published by the Athens Transport Organization (OASA) was for the period 2009-12 as the crisis worsened because of harsh austerity measures imposed by successive governments on the orders of international lenders.
With disposable income down 46.8 percent, and with recent fare hikes backfiring in an attempt to recoup lost revenues, public transportation has become a money-loser.
Over the three-year period, the system has lost 200 million passengers amd there has been a surge in fare dodging. Last year, a young man who didn’t have a ticket on a bus died when he either jumped or was pushed by an inspector. The case is still pending.
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 the bus death that caused widespread outrage and complaints people couldn’t afford the tickets on a daily basis.
Inspections began again in September, 2013 and 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, which is 60 times the cost of a ticket, 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.