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Photo Policies of Amtrak and other Transit Agencies


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#1 RyanS

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Posted 01 June 2011 - 11:03 AM

While doing some reading about the ACLU gearing up to sue the Maryland MTA over photographer's rights, I had the idea that it would be a nice thing to have the photo policy of the various agencies that we come into contact with collected in one place.

First off, in general it's important to remember that for non commercial use, photography of anything that you can see from public property is fair game to take pictures of.

Read this (and I keep a copy of it in my camera bag - I haven't, but really should also keep a copy of the photo policy for wherever I'm shooting in the bag as well).



Amtrak:
Amtrak's official policy can be found here.

It's pretty photographer friendly, however I have a bit of an issue with it. In part, it states:

Ticketed passengers on board trains may take photos or video record on a train when it does not interfere with passengers or crew and in accordance with any directions given by Amtrak onboard train personnel.

I don't like the italicized bit because for seemingly any reason a crew member that doesn't like what you're doing can tell you to stop and you have to oblige them. I'd try to make the convincing argument that I'm not interfering with passengers or crew, but at the end of the day you're at the mercy of the crew while you're on board a train.



WMATA (Washington, DC):
I'm well aquainted with WMATA's policy, due to this incident (which is surprisingly on the first page of results when you Google "WMATA photo policy"). The policy can be found in this 128 page PDF.

The relevant portion is section 100.8 and is mostly focused on regulations concerning commercial style filming. The only reference to non-commercial photography comes in section (2):

Still photography that does not require a tripod, special lighting, film crews, models, impair the normal ingress/egress or operation of WMATA services and can be accomplished by a hand-held camera by one person is not regulated

(bold mine)

Basically, no tripods and stay out of the way. There have been some issues with people getting harassed about flashes in the face of train operators in underground stations that makes some sense. There's nothing that says whether a standard camera flash is considered "special lighting", but I suspect that they could make that stick and make you turn off the flash.



Maryland MTA:
Maryland's official policy can be found here. I don't have a lot of experience with it (because I haven't had any issues), but apparently the officers up in Baltimore are a little more overzealous. The ACLU recently announced that they planned on suing the MTA based on their harassment of a tourist. The MTA was quick to respond with their photo policy and some excellent statements by the Chief and MTA Administrator. The gist of their photo policy is that it's perfectly OK as long as you're not being unsafe:

No permit required: A permit is not required for non-commercial, personal-use filming or photography by the general public that does not interfere with transit operations or safety.?


Please feel free to add to this list with the regulations for other agencies. It would be nice to have a reference to go to when traveling. It's up to us as photographers to be aware of our rights and assert them when necessary.
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#2 PerRock

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Posted 01 June 2011 - 11:50 AM

The CTA policy is pretty lax; you can read it here:
http://www.transitch...hotopolicy.aspx

Metra (Chicago) has very little in the way of their policy, you can read the entierty here:

Photography & Videography: For safety and security reasons, photography or videography on Metra property is only permitted in areas that are clearly open to public use. Areas that are accessible only to Metra employees, including but not limited to, the right-of way and rail yards, are highly restricted areas and are not able to be accessed for photography or videography by the general public. Metra will prosecute trespassers to the fullest extent of the law.


from this page: http://metrarail.com..._awareness.html

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#3 RyanS

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Posted 01 June 2011 - 11:54 AM

Thanks for sharing.

The CTA policy is pretty lax; you can read it here:
http://www.transitch...hotopolicy.aspx

This part kind of sucks:

Loitering at CTA stations for extended periods for the purpose of taking photographs or video is prohibited.


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#4 PerRock

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Posted 01 June 2011 - 12:30 PM

Thanks for sharing.


The CTA policy is pretty lax; you can read it here:
http://www.transitch...hotopolicy.aspx

This part kind of sucks:

Loitering at CTA stations for extended periods for the purpose of taking photographs or video is prohibited.


I should mention that you have to pay to get onto a CTA platform anyways, so one could always just hop the next train & take it to the next stop, shoot some pics & ride back.

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#5 lthanlon

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Posted 01 June 2011 - 03:39 PM

Don't get me started on my city's beloved CTA.

It's acceptable for street musicians to spread amplifier cords and guitar cases all over the platforms. It's OK for folks to bring along strollers that are almost the size of a compact car. It's OK to bring bicycles onto platforms and trains. But somehow, a tripod is death incarnate?

I know one photographer who was threatened with arrest by station attendants for photographing a revamped station from across the street for a chamber of commerce newsletter about neighborhood improvements. She was doing so at the alderman's suggestion. Another photographer I know was similarly threatened for taking photos when the old Belmont Station was moved. Again, he was doing so from across the street.

I had my own experience with a CTA. While seated on the Ravenswood Brown Line L as it waited in the Kimball Station, I held a small point & shoot camera at arm's length to take a picture of myself and a companion. I was immediately read the Riot Act by a CTA employee, who assured me that I had misunderstood the policy as explained on the CTA website and that all photography is illegal and that he was doing me a very big favor by not having me arrested.

Ironically, at about this same time, Joseph "Dr. Chaos" Konopka was roaming the CTA subway tunnels with a teenage boy wonder in tow, merrily storing cyanide in a storage area to which only he had the key.

Cyanide, shmyanide! But thank God the CTA is safe from photographers.

Edited by lthanlon, 01 June 2011 - 03:44 PM.

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#6 amtrakwolverine

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Posted 01 June 2011 - 07:53 PM

They can print and revamp all the photo rights they want all it takes is a wannabe cop with a uniform to mess up the day.

#7 GG-1

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Posted 01 June 2011 - 08:42 PM

They can print and revamp all the photo rights they want all it takes is a wannabe cop with a uniform to mess up the day.

Unfortunately this statement is way to true. But remaining calm and reasonable can make the situation better.

Aloha

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#8 RyanS

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Posted 01 June 2011 - 08:44 PM

Absolutely! Having the facts on your side helps as well, and when you can point to a document that says you're allowed to be doing what you're doing, it puts the onus on the other guy to provide some documentation to the contrary.
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#9 lthanlon

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Posted 01 June 2011 - 10:21 PM

No amount of printed CTA photo policy is going to work in your favor when confronted by CTA employees and the Transit Police. I've lived in the Big City long enough to know this.
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#10 PerRock

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Posted 01 June 2011 - 10:49 PM

is the CTA public or private property?
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#11 Tracktwentynine

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Posted 02 June 2011 - 07:34 AM

NYCSubway.org has a pretty comprehensive list of transit system photography policies. Some of these may have changed since the agencies were queried, though.
http://www.nycsubway...otopermits.html

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#12 lthanlon

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Posted 02 June 2011 - 01:14 PM

is the CTA public or private property?

The CTA is a municipal corporation, so I believe they can treat much of their property as essentially private. The whole issue of what you can do where is open to some interpretation with regard to First Amendment issues. For example, at the Jefferson Park station near where I live, you are obliged of run a gauntlet of newspaper vendors, panhandlers, religious types, politicians and others. Yet, once you've paid your fare and crossed that threshold, employees are willing to take action. I've watched them eject powerful politicians who had the audacity to pass out campaign literature on the platform.

Edited by lthanlon, 02 June 2011 - 01:14 PM.

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#13 GG-1

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Posted 03 June 2011 - 03:28 PM

Aloha

Thanks to the OTOL site I found this link to the Baltimore Sun article on a photographer that was harassed.

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#14 Ispolkom

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Posted 03 June 2011 - 10:23 PM

Yet, once you've paid your fare and crossed that threshold, employees are willing to take action. I've watched them eject powerful politicians who had the audacity to pass out campaign literature on the platform.


Long ago (almost 30 years ago) I was on what's now the Green Line when one passenger told another passenger that smoking was forbidden. The smoker disagreed. At the next stop the first gentleman (the one who objected to smoking), pulled out his badge, announced that he was a police (his words), grabbed the smoker, dragged him out of the car and across the platform and slammed his face (and cigarette) into the cement wall with what seemed to me nose-breaking force. I'm sure that it didn't stop there. The doors closed, and the train continued on. That was long ago, and I'd like to think things have changed, but I'd never push things with any Chicago cop. YMMV.

Edited by Ispolkom, 03 June 2011 - 10:28 PM.


#15 Spokker

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Posted 05 June 2011 - 07:47 AM

Official policy: Photography is allowed.

Unofficial policy: Delete those photos or I'll delete them for you!

#16 RyanS

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Posted 05 June 2011 - 07:48 AM

Where?
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#17 Guest_train person_*

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Posted 06 June 2011 - 08:50 AM

Official policy: Photography is allowed.

Unofficial policy: Delete those photos or I'll delete them for you!


Thats ok, if some clown insists that, just "delete" them, smile, walk away, take the memory card out of the camera, use another one, then when you get home use one of the many recovery programmes to get the photos. Deleting just ain't an issue!!!

#18 GG-1

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Posted 06 June 2011 - 11:13 AM

Aloha

I asked an attorney friend to comment about the video link. Here is his comment.

It is not really all that obvious that the poor fellow was right, although he should have been left alone. Most states now have failure to identify statutes that actually make it a petty misdemeanor not to identify oneself upon the demand (with or without reason) of a law enforcement officer. If the guy complied with the demands and showed them his ID, the officer would have yanked it out of his hand and thereby attained an advantage, since the pressure would on the fellow to cooperate with them if he hoped to get his ID back quickly.
The officers were right also about Maryland's law on audio recording being different from that of other states, but I doubt very much that it would prohibit recording when the other party knows he is being recorded. In Hawaii, a party to a conversation, even over the phone, can record without telling the other party it is being recorded, but no so in Maryland.
Yes, there seems to be a huge collision between the right to observe and record and the government's need to insure the public's safety. I guess Google Maps would be committing crimes with its views of everything that security officials consider sensitive. No, it is not illegal to take pictures of mass transit facilities, but such pictures actually could assist terrorists.


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#19 amtrakwolverine

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Posted 10 July 2011 - 01:18 PM

What needs to be done is better training of security people. Train them on what is and isn´t allowed. maybe have a no hero's policy that forbids the security people from harassing photo takers.Unless the photo taker is doing something that will endanger his life or others like getting on the tracks to get a perfect shot or climbing a fence then Let the police decide. the police may side with you they may not.

Edited by amtrakwolverine, 10 July 2011 - 01:20 PM.


#20 Train2104

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Posted 11 July 2011 - 07:02 PM

In the NYC area:

PATH: Photography prohibited.

NYCT, LIRR, MNR, NJT: Photography permitted, no trespassing, no flash, no tripods. NYP and Shore Line East follows Amtrak's rule above.

SEPTA:

SEPTA welcomes photographers and artists. In return, we simply request they use common sense and courtesy to others in pursuit of their pictures.
----
SEPTA Transit Police and other law enforcement are under orders to question anyone taking photographs or sketching transit facilities.


http://septa.org/policy/film.html

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