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State-funding for 'fare-dodgers' sparks outrage

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

“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.

The Local/og (news@thelocal.se)

Your comments about this article

16:38 May 3, 2012 by Svensksmith
I'd like to start an organization to encourage people not to pay taxes. Can I get some money to start it up, please?
16:44 May 3, 2012 by Reason abd Realism
I pay for my pass each month, and on average I get checked 2 or 3 times a year. If the fine is 800 SEK and the pass is 800 SEK, then until they start to check me an average of 12 times a year, it is better for me to never buy a pass and jump the turnstyles every time.

On top of that, the fare fines are non binding. I've seen people shrug off the fare enforcers and walk away at a good clip into the city night, and the fare enforcers cannot do a thing.

NYC cleaned up violent crime by stopping people who jumped the subway turnstyles, because murderers and armed robbers who were at large were among the people who jumped the turnstyles.

Because there is no serious punishment for murder or other violent crimes in Sweden, but there is punishment for tax evasion, Sweden should might as well get serious about the people who do not buy subway passes. A few murderers and armed robbers might get to see some jail time.

Editor: typo in your first sentence:' fairs' should be 'fares'.
16:45 May 3, 2012 by Beachhannah
I am totally all for this idea. Public transport should be free everywhere so it is fair for everyone to use, it should not discriminate.

If the government does not bring the prices down then they should at least provide an alternative, maybe a free bicycle for each household, student etc...this way you can minimise pollution and increase the health standards. The country is expensive enough, and the tourism industry will suffer if the ticket prices keep going up.

It is a lose-lose situation here.
17:09 May 3, 2012 by gpafledthis
Quoting Abe Lincoln "a society divided cannot stand" Hooray !! Finnies come claim your part !! That is the part the Danes don't summer on !!
17:22 May 3, 2012 by Rishonim
28,000 KR does not equal $ 1,450. Check your facts.
17:29 May 3, 2012 by Reason abd Realism
@ Beachhannah

Free public transport = higher taxes for everybody, even those who do not use the system. Free bicycles also cost tax money, must be maintained/replaced, and do not work that well in the winter.

I do agree however that it is obscene to rip off tourists, with fake taxis, tax surcharges at the Arlanda Express taxi stop, and too high SL fares for short use passes and those paper strip tickets (an SL scumbag once stamped a 3 zone trip on mine before I had a chance to respond, wasting nearly half of my ticket strip). This is giving the cold shoulder to tourists, who hate being nickled and dimed to death. Either the tourist board here has no imagination or no real authority to make meaningful changes to SL's prices.
20:31 May 3, 2012 by SimonDMontfort
From my observation, some people need NO encouragement to be fare-dodgers.

When I used the t-bana to travel into Stockholm's T-Centralen every day, I reckon half the people (in some instances) just vaulted over the barrier (all the time of course talking on their mobile phones) and boarded the trains
21:43 May 3, 2012 by Carbarrister
i've a novel idea. Why doesn't the Arts Council focus on art and art museums. I had to pay 100SEK to visit the moderna Museet. If the Arts Council is flush with cash why don't they subsidize that.
22:13 May 3, 2012 by Kr0n
Free public transport (PT). The term itself is wrong. It is not free. Somebody pays for the infrastructure, its operation, and maintenance. The correct question to ask is how these costs should be split among all the stakeholders and who are those stakeholders.

Ideally, everyone should pay the amount that corresponds to the actual transportation needs of such individual. If he or she does not use PT and drives a car instead then this person should not be paying for PT at all (directly or indirectly through taxes). If a person needs to take a few journeys during a single day, do not force him or her to pay the amount equal to five days of use. Let the daily ticket be priced at 26 SEK (i.e. 790 / 30). And then you would not need zones, as at the price of 26 SEK per day you can travel in all zones.

Alternatively, if the PT is tax-funded, remove the fees for passengers completely, as they have already paid for it. In the same way as education is free, or kindergartens. Issue to all taxayers a special card that serves as a free pass to the PT. Tourists and non-residents would have to buy a ticket as usual.
01:50 May 4, 2012 by glamelixir
@carbarrister

The museums used to be free a few years ago. The moderaterna changes that.
07:08 May 4, 2012 by futureishere
Even if the PT is not free, at the very least they should change the fees structure. At present, I have to pay full amount of 17 SEK (here in Gothenburg) for 90 minutes of travel even if I am travelling for just five minutes. To me, that's a total rip-off. I don't mind paying 17 SEK for 90 minutes of travel but if I am travelling only a fraction of that time, I should have an option of either buying a point-to-point ticket or cut-off my journey time when I get off the transport and should be able to use the remaining time during later journey.
10:00 May 4, 2012 by karex
Funny how the oganization wants to pay fines for fare dodgers - provided they are PAYING members. So they don't want to promote free transportation, they want to take the money for themselves.

#10 is right on the money. It COSTS to run transportation. If people are not charged fares for the use, the money will be taken out of taxes instead, and probably increase those, and those of us who do NOT use the public transportation will be paying for others.
16:10 May 4, 2012 by ann2
Just checked -- it's almost exactly 400 sek for a monthly pass (includes subway and bus) in Boston, Mass., USA (Greater Boston is tenth in population among U.S. metropolitan statistical areas in the United States, home to over 4.6 million people as of the 2010 U.S. Census). Wow.
19:07 May 4, 2012 by redfish
Definition of art these days = anything that makes a claim to be subversive.
21:02 May 4, 2012 by tadchem
Sounds like supporting organized crime (like drug running, trafficking in persons, or samuggling)to me. The only quibble is over the seriousness of the crime.
12:28 May 5, 2012 by Max Reaver
well, we already pay the highest income tax of the entire Europe, so why cant the public transport at least be cheaper than the rest of Europe???
13:43 May 6, 2012 by cogito
@Max,

Was wondering the same: highest taxes and most expensive public transportation. Doesn't add up.
02:52 May 11, 2012 by old git
cause you dont get practically empty buses running until 1 in the morning out in the country side or expensive to buy and run" green" buses or so much ticket fraud and parking is so expensive and penalised that they can do what they like on public transport prices...but a monthly ticket in stockholm anyway is not too bad...and if transport should be free why shouldn.t water and housing and basic food be free for everybody? they are more essential than transport....
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