State-funding for 'fare-dodgers' sparks outrage
Published: 03 May 2012 14:49 GMT+02:00
Updated: 03 May 2012 14:49 GMT+02:00
The Swedish Arts Council (Kulturrådet) has come under fire for providing public funds to help an organization that encourages Swedes to dodge paying fares on public transit systems around the country.
“I can only shake my head in disbelief. The fact that a state authority uses tax money to encourage a criminal offence – it’s remarkable to say the least. It’s astonishing,” Björn Holmberg, the head of SL, the Stockholm Public Transport authority, told the Expressen newspaper.
The newspaper revealed on Thursday that the Arts Council had given 28,000 kronor ($4,140) to help in the publication and distribution of a manifesto from Planka.nu, a network of organizations in Sweden promoting tax-financed zero-fare public transport and which actively encourages people to avoid paying fares.
However, representatives of the Planka organization believe that the issue needs a shift in focus.
“SL always criticizes us, no matter what we do. We want the focus to be on the book, not their opinion of what we do,” said Christian Tengblad, spokesperson for Planka.nu to The Local.
“We’re seeing no economic benefit from this book; the payment was made to the publishers. It’s even on Pirate Bay – we just want people to read our message,” Tengland said.
Planka.nu takes its name from a Swedish colloquialism "att planka" which translates roughly into English as "to dodge fares".
“Travelling without a ticket costs hundreds of millions every year, and that’s just in the Stockholm region,” Holmberg told Expressen.
Planka.nu’s goal is to make public transport free by paying the fines of anyone caught travelling without a ticket, provided they are a paying member.
The organization's views have been encapsulated in a manifesto called "Trafikmaktordningen" ('The Traffic Hierarchy') which will be produced and distributed by the Korpen Koloni publishing house with funds awarded by the Arts Council.
“The book is all about how society treats and reacts to different kinds of motorists, for example, how the car is put at the top of the pyramid. Cities are constructed for cars, not social needs,” Tengblad told The Local.
“We want to redefine this hierarchy.”
The Council has given 21,725 kronor to Korpen Koloni for “literature support” and 6,345 kronor to specifically aid in distributing the Planka.nu manifesto.
On the official website, planka.nu, readers can find information about the best way to use public transport around Sweden without having to pay for a ticket, with subsections such as “If you get caught”.
When asked about the man on the street paying 790 kronor for a monthly pass to ride Stockholm-area public transit, Tengland is quick respond.
“We are the man on the street. We are organizing a mutual fund to split the risk, and we will make a political impact. We want transport to be accessible for everyone.”
The organization encourages members to fare-dodge on buses, trains, and subways.
Planka.nu was founded in 2001 in reaction to public transit fare-prices around Sweden were deemed too high.