Sneaking onto the Paris Métro to avoid paying the fare is a tradition as old as the subway system itself—but it carries the risk of getting caught, and the prospect of a hefty fine of up to 72 euros (about $95 Canadian). Now, enterprising groups of fare dodgers are banding together to create an insurance policy of sorts: by paying into a common pot each month, they collectively cover any fines incurred by members. They’ll keep at it, they say, until Paris starts offering public transit for free.
About 10 loosely organized groups currently operate in Paris, according to an estimate in Le Parisien. They’re made up of friends, neighbours or university students. “We each pay seven euros a month into a common fund,” says Frédéric, 22, who founded one group last year. “At the end of the year, there’s only about three euros left.” Some “unofficial rules” exist, he told the newspaper, like certain stations that must “absolutely be avoided” so as not to meet a roving inspector. Members generally don’t speak to the media: “We count on word of mouth to let people know about us and recruit new members,” another member said, or they put out the word through their own newsletter.
These fare dodgers aren’t just cheapskates, they insist; their turnstile-hopping is politically driven. Like health care and education, “free transportation is possible,” a founding member said, noting that it’s already done in places like Hasselt, in Belgium, which has offered fare-free transit for over 10 years. But despite being one of the most high-tech subway systems in the world, the heavily subsidized Paris Métro is still fairly cheap (a ticket costs just 1.60 euros, about $2.10 Canadian). And going public in Le Parisien doesn’t seem to have won these fare dodgers too many friends. “It’s just unfair because the rest of us have to pay,” one young woman complained.