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Olympic Games: free transport for ticket holders, the false promise of Paris 2024

4 euros per metro ticket, 16 euros per day for the “Paris 2024” pass: it is an understatement to say that the special pricing for Ile-de-France transport during the 2024 Olympic Games, announced Monday evening by Valérie Pécresse, is not unanimous.

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Olympic Games: free transport for ticket holders, the false promise of Paris 2024

4 euros per metro ticket, 16 euros per day for the “Paris 2024” pass: it is an understatement to say that the special pricing for Ile-de-France transport during the 2024 Olympic Games, announced Monday evening by Valérie Pécresse, is not unanimous. On social networks, Internet users and left-wing political figures are screaming against these attacks, which will take place from July 20 to September 8, i.e. over the entire period from the start of the Olympics to the end of the Paralympic Games.

“So are these games 100% accessible by public transport? Metros and buses reserved for the richest?”, blasted David Belliard, green deputy at Paris town hall, on X (ex-Twitter). “Planned privatization, metro ticket prices doubled, when liberal logic rules, Ile-de-France residents drink!”, scathed the national secretary of the PCF and deputy for the North, Fabien Roussel. The LFI MP for Val-de-Marne, Clémence Guetté, criticized “a gift from the right and the Macronists united”, believing that “the predicted disaster is becoming clearer!”

A new pricing which goes all the more poorly since, as sports economist Pierre Rondeau pointed out on tickets, across the entire Île-de-France network, on the day of the competition in question. “Monday's announcement seems to be more a matter of economic opportunism than anything else and goes against the trend which aims rather to favor free transport to encourage the use of low-carbon modes of transport,” judges from Le Figaro Christophe Lepetit, head of economic studies at the Center for Sports Law and Economics (CDES) in Limoges. For the economist, this controversy “illustrates the difficulty of coordinating all the stakeholders of the Olympic Games (Paris 2024, Region, Île-de-France Mobilités, etc.)”.

And in fact, on the side of Île-de-France Mobilités (IDFM), the organizing authority for public transport in the Ile-de-France region, we affirm “never having committed to free transport for ticket holders”. “IDFM has always refused free transport whatever the framework,” we insist, placing the responsibility on the organizers of the Olympic Games, the Paris 2024 committee. IDFM also affirms that Paris 2024 has renounced the free transport promised in December 2022, after having “reviewed its financial balances in order to create room for maneuver to cope with the unforeseen additional costs of inflation and to concentrate on key expenditure”.

Paris 2024 corroborates this version: “Last year, on the occasion of the budgetary review of the Olympic Games”, the choice was finally made to “optimize the budget of the Games” and to make a certain number of “savings in order to to finance inflation. It is in this context that the decision was taken to reverse free transport for ticket holders, valued at 45 million euros. A free service which, moreover, according to Paris 2024, “was not likely to encourage a change in behavior in relation to ticket holders”, to the extent that public transport will already be, during this period, the means of travel most suitable for them. “This is the first time in the history of the Games that people will be able to get to 100% of the events by public transport,” we emphasize at IDFM.

Furthermore, the regional authority justifies this special pricing by strengthening the transport offer by 15% during the Games. “Visitors will pay the right price for these thousands of trains and thousands of additional metros,” says the authority chaired by Valérie Pécresse, estimating their additional cost at 200 million euros. “There is no question of Ile-de-France residents paying this cost,” declared the LR boss of the Île-de-France region in a video published on X.

This is where the defense of Île-de-France Mobilités lies: many Ile-de-France residents will not experience any increase. “For all monthly, annual, Imagine’R or even senior subscribers, i.e. 5 million people, this changes nothing,” we reassure. On the other hand, occasional users are called upon to anticipate in order not to suffer these increases. Either by subscribing to the Liberté contract - a sort of Télépéage pass for Parisian public transport - or by purchasing tickets in advance, before July 20. In addition, IDFM is trying to reduce the amount of the special Olympic pass to 16 euros per day. “The daily pass in London, the only network comparable to that of Paris in Europe, costs 23 euros per day,” we emphasize. And 16 euros, it remains cheaper, we add, than the cost of the Navigo day pass, at 20.10 euros, and which will increase to 20.60 euros on January 1, 2024. However, reduced to the week, the JO pass will cost 70 euros, compared to 30 euros for the Navigo week pass currently.

Ile-de-France transport user associations are showing greater restraint. “It's pretty fair that there are higher rates during the Olympics for non-subscribers and non-residents. The additional offer is expensive and if it is not the visitor who pays, it will be the daily user or the taxpayer,” estimated the Plus de trains sur X association. For Marc Pélissier, president of FNAUT Île- de-France, “it is the logical continuation of the State-region agreement on the financing of public transport in the Ile-de-France region, in which the subject of the additional cost of the special JO service was not addressed”. “It was the least bad solution. But between free and doubling prices, we could have had a message that was a little more welcoming,” he admits.

However, user associations are wondering about the duration of the special pricing, from July 20 to September 8. “This doubled price will remain in effect between the Olympic Games and the Paralympic Games, so there will be either Ile-de-France residents or visitors who come for something other than the Olympics, who will find themselves with this additional price,” points out Marc Pélissier. “We cannot increase prices, lower prices, then increase them again,” we argue at IDFM. The Plus de Trains association believes that these special prices are not justified during the Paralympic Games, because “there will be many fewer visitors”. Member of the International Olympic Committee (IOC) and having actively participated in the organization of the support campaign for the Paris candidacy, Guy Drut takes a step back: “The closer we get to the Olympic Games, the more this type of debate will s 'install. It is normal for tension to rise as the competition approaches and for problems to be resolved to accumulate, particularly budgetary ones. This was the case in Rio, in London, in Tokyo…”

As for whether this is a new controversy linked to the price that the Olympics will cost for spectators, Paris 2024 answers “no”, calling for education. “It is to avoid a new controversy that we need to be precise and remember the reality of things,” underlines the organizers of the Games, who insist on the fact that the day pass will cost 16 euros, compared to 20.10 euros today. As for occasional users, who will be required to take public transport during this period without participating in the Games, they are simply invited to “anticipate” their trips and take precautions so as not to have to pay the full price. “We have to do education. (…) That’s why we take the time to explain it,” concludes Paris 2024.

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