Organized fare-dodgers in Paris jumping the barriers

If we refuse to buy tickets, it is not because we disrespect the common good, as many dutiful ticket-buyers might think, but on the contrary because we take it seriously.

Ideally, we consider it fair play to give an amount of money to benefit from a good public infrastructure. As it happens, we do pay for the transport system through our taxes. If we are required to pay for it twice, it is because the infrastructure devised to control the travellers – barriers, controllers, tickets offices, high-tech electronic coupons – is so expensive. If we got rid of all this, public transportation would be cheaper. It would also reduce pollution by encouraging people to use trains and buses instead of cars.

Besides the fact that tickets are hardly affordable for many of us, not buying them is also a way to boycott the policy of the Paris transportation company, the RATP, now partly privatized. Since the early eighties, the state, via the RATP, has been using the underground to shape a specific public space, half way between a supermarket and a prison. If the transport network has always had policing fonctions, such as the harassment of migrants and people who can’t afford tickets, it has become more fiercely militarized over the past few years. This space is also used to promote antisocial technologies like RFID cards, CCTV cameras and videoscreens, which travellers gradually learn to put up with because they have no choice. And of course, every inch of this « public » space is used up for advertisement, while the RATP forbids the handing out of any sort of political literature on its premises. Thus the transport system is much more than a way to go from one place to another: it is a sort of laboratory dedicated to order and consumption, testing various ways to manage crowds and manipulate individuals.

In this context, we find that jumping the barriers of the Paris underground makes a lot of sense.

Insurance for fare-dodgers

Fare-dodging is normally a solitary and a financially hazardous activity. Being part of a group of organized fare-dodgers allows you to walk around with your head high, illicit but insured.

How does that work ?

Fare-dodgers meet once a month in and around Paris. In each assembly, each member puts a small amount of money (6-7 euros) into a kitty, which is used to pay members’ fines. Since even a very unlucky person cannot be fined more than 4 or 5 times a year, the group easily balances its books.

Each group of fare-dodgers is a democratic and sovereign assembly. At meetings, we devise and exchange tricks to get through metro barriers; we plan events and direct action; and we collect money and pay back fines. This system is based on mutual trust and to my knowledge there have been no cases of misappropriation – which has to do with organizing on a small-scale, each assembly consisting of 10 to 30 members.

The oldest of these groups is now 4 years-old and there are at least 5 other assemblies of fare-dodgers in Paris. Needless to say, we encourage any informal group of friends or colleagues to do the same and adapt the formula to their needs and desires, and to the characteristics of the transport system of their city.


Meetings every first wednesday of the month at CICP, 21ter rue Voltaire, 75011 Paris, 19:30.