The system is described as such in the LA Times:
For about $8.50 a month, those who join one of these raffish-sounding mutuelles des fraudeurs can rest easy knowing that, if they get busted for refusing to be so bourgeois as to pay to use public transit, the fund will cough up the money for the fine.
It provides a little peace of mind, however ethically dubious, in a time of economic uncertainty.
But for many of these fraudeurs, cheating the system and forming a co-op isn't just about saving money; it's about striking a blow against a capitalist state that favors the haves over the have-nots. Fare dodgers of the world, unite!
"It's a way to resist together," declared Gildas, 30, a leader of the mutuelle movement. "We can make solidarity."
And that solidarity isn't going to pay for operating the trains. But, of course, maybe France is different:
"There are things in France which are supposed to be free — schools, health. So why not transportation?" he said. "It's not a question of money.... It's a political question."
Tres bien. But it's hard not to bring money into the equation, at least a little bit.
It costs about $9 billion a year to maintain and operate the public transit system in the greater Paris region, including trains, subway, trams and buses, said Sebastien Mabille, a spokesman for the transportation union STIF.
If the fraudeurs "want free travel, they'll have to come up with some sort of solution to find" the $3.9 billion of the budget generated by ticket sales, Mabille said.
The fare cheats counter by saying that simply jettisoning everything related to ticket sales and enforcement, the government would save a bundle. Higher taxes for the rich are, of course, a no-brainer.
Gildas rides the subway at least three times a day, and avoids payment as "a political act." Besides, he said, "it's quite easy."
Back in 2001 or so, he and a group of fellow travelers, in both the literal and metaphorical senses, formed the Network for the Abolition of Paid Transport, "the beginning of our struggle," Gildas calls it. The group's initials in French mimic those of the agency that runs the Metro and buses, and to the agency's logo, which looks like the outline of a face, abolitionists added a raised fist.
Their shared laments about oppression by official fines inspired about a dozen adherents to set up the first mutual insurance fund a few years ago.
And old roommate of mine was a member of one of these societies when he lived in Gothenberg, Sweden.
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