Barcelona crackdowns on 50,000 fare-dodgers
About 500 people saw their names published in the official regional bulletin for not buying a ticket while travelling on public transport.BARCELONA – The number of people caught without paying on public transport in Barcelona is more than 50,000 per year.
Some pay, but others can justify their lack of a ticket - such as a senior who is not carrying their identity card, for example, who is given an opportunity to produce it later.
But others end up in the official regional bulletin Diari Oficial de la Generalitat (DOGC), which published the names of some 500 fare-dodgers - all subway or tram passengers in October 2008.
Having taken all these steps, the authority publishes their name in the DOGC. It then becomes the Revenue Ministry's job to determine whether they have bank accounts with money in them. If so, the amount owed is embargoed - in theory at least, but in practice this isn't an easy step.
Forced into court
Non-payers on public transport are very numerous, with some surveys putting the figure at around 10 percent of users.
The manner in which they evade fares may consist of simply not paying, or of paying for a ticket and travelling much further than the ticket allows - this mainly applies to the railways, both national and regional commuter trains. Teenagers even travel with a retired person's card, a practice that appears to be spreading.
Ways of combating it, however, are few. Until 2006, if they refused to pay, there was no solution but to go to court, which was costly for all concerned.
Now, under a new Catalan law, the regional government will assume the task of fining and collecting. To this end the sanction must previously be published, so that the fare-dodger cannot claim he was unaware.
In the first eight months of 2008, subway inspectors have caught 25,327 passengers without the correct ticket, or without any at all. More than half paid the EUR 40 fine on the spot, in which case it is reduced to EUR 20, with others alleging acceptable reasons. But 1,356 defaulters are on the Revenue Ministry's list.
On the tram in the same period, 7,462 were caught: 53 percent paid on the spot, while 45 percent are still in default. The remaining two percent were able to accredit a legitimate reason.
What is not yet known is what will happen to the money the Revenue Ministry collects - will it stay in Madrid, or be transferred to Barcelona?
Nor is it clear how much will be collected at all - or, indeed, if so much red tape is worth the trouble.
19 January 2009
text: El Pais / Francesc Arroyo / Expatica
photo credits: CpILL;TheDivineMissM;.Robert.;Drown