Discussion in 'Rail Photography' started by Ryan, Apr 2, 2014.
Exactly a week later, I get this unsurprising and completely worthless reply from the MTA:
You photo geeks look dangerous to me out there taking pictures of Trains and Stations! Help!
Of course this is pathetic considering the millions of people who ride on the NEC! And the Corporate Boilerplate is also pathetic, that person needs to get a real rail job and do some work!
I feel like I'm taking crazy pills here.
So photography is welcomed, but if you do it, stand by to be questioned and possibly put off of the train. Doesn't sound very welcoming to me.
The usual idiotic bureaucratic double speak where it is perfectly OK for two consecutive sentence to contradict each other at least in spirit if not the letter too.
A small aside..... in our formal modeling work, we have worked on a standard for expressing business rules in a restricted form of English, the restrictions being mainly to make every expression in that subset language convertible to a precise statement in diontic logic (a logic that allows for the concepts of obligation, prohibition, and permission - important ones for expressing business rules and statements of legal nature). The standard is called "Semantics for Business Vocabulary and Rules. Anyway, someone had the temerity to try to express a small portion of a CFR section using this, and in just 4 pages of the stuff they found `15 outright provable contradictions just within those four pages, and yet it is that sort of stuff that governs the behavior of our government bureaucracy all around us. They are so trained to write such nonsense that they can't even see the stupidity of this stuff anymore. This was brought to the attention of the GSA, and since then they have actually decided to fund a small project to document the level and pervasiveness of this problem. As for what might come of it is of course a different matter.
Next response to her should be:
If other passengers "complain", then have the conductor take the passenger in question to another car and question him there. If everything seems to be in order, have the passenger sit in a different car then he was originally sitting in. If "police" need to be "called", have the police ride the train while questioning the "suspect" rather than take the "suspect" off the train.
I would think that any terriorist that is doing photography would not be an immediate threat to passengers. The reason for the photography would be to aid in planning something for a later date, therefore, it should be safe to question the suspect on the train.
<will start reading Odenton area newspapers to watch for Ryan's name to appear> h34r: :help:
Maybe they're scared stray photons from the camera could cause irreversible damage to trains and passengers.
That's not reasonable suspicion, that's lunacy. You could be a terrorist! Look, you're talking about terrorism on a website! Terrorist!
If that's "reasonable suspicion", then every tourist taking photos of the Sears Tower and Golden Gate Bridge should be questioned.
Thanks for following up Ryan. Although the response was borderline meaningless at least you did what you could to get the point across. If you want to take it further it might be worthwhile to write an op-ed in the local paper, assuming you still have one.
Final (hopefully!) follow up.
Attended a MARC Rider's Advisory Council meeting yesterday (I was a member from 2009-2010 and had to resign when I took this job since I didn't commute on the train anymore).
Fascinating meeting with a lot of good information (I may start a thread on "What's up at MARC?" separately). I was able to raise my issue and learned that the Amtrak Chief of Police found out about the incident and sent a memo out the next day reminding conductors of the acceptability of personal photography. After the meeting, I got to chat a little more, and it seems that Polly Hanson (who succeeded John O'Connor, made famous when he threw the TSA off Amtrak property after the Savannah VIPER team incident) is in lock step with Mr. O'Connor's attitudes with respect to the rights of passengers (which is an amazing breath of fresh air when compared to the attitudes of many other LEOs).
Apparently the conductor in question was also in an incredibly difficult position - many different passengers approached him in a literal panic about the photographer for some reason. When they pulled into Odenton and the TSA goons were standing there, referring the issue to them was really the only move he had (which gets back to my larger issue that the TSA causes more issues than they solve).
Overall, I'm very much satisfied with the outcome of this. The appropriate message was sent and seems to have been received. I'm sure that this isn't the end of harassment of photographers by a long shot, but each time this happens affords us the opportunity to stand up and assert our rights, so yay for that!
I agree. The passengers complaining about the photographer should be removed from the train and questioned, preferably by a licensed and qualified psychologist.
That kind of attitude would make us no better than them.
Dude, if you refuse to laugh, you'll never be better than anything. It's how I survive.
Who's laughing? I think it's a great idea, turn the tables and see how these scaredy-cats feel about being subjected to a government shakedown for doing nothing illegal.
Ryan, thank you very much for taking the time, and making the effort, to stand up for the rights of all train passengers.
Had a similar run in at DC Union Station with a MARC employee, on P877, Brunswick line, three years ago. At the time I was returning home from my job as an editor for a Washington Post newspaper at the Navy Yard. Was on the platform when the conductor, [name redacted] threatened to arrest me for photographing one of the new MP36 engines that was on the platform next to my train, claiming that, "I would post the picture online where it could be accessed by terrorist".
I then stated Amtrak's policy pertaining to photography at DC Union and even pulled out a copy of the document to which he replied, he would have me arrested by Amtrak police for trespassing, despite having a valid monthly ticket. I informed him that he will also miss his train as I will personally ensure he is held by the police as well while we worked this out with the appropriate Amtrak and MARC management.
Now, mind you, I had a small laptop bag on my shoulder, and a little Fuji X100 camera with me. (as opposed to my full-size Nikon D3s with all that huge f/2.8 glass), so it was not as if I had a huge monster professional camera or anything more han even a normal tourist wouldn't carry.
Not sure if either my Navy issued WaPo press credentials were showing, or my NARP ambassador badge was visible, but he decided not to call it after a stern warning after noticing something on my messenger bag. Since, I was already having a bad day, I decided I was sick of my rights being stepped on again in DC for doing my job and wasn't going to let it go, so easily.
On the train, I got his name, and immediately contacted Malcom Kenton, NARP (I serve as an ambassador at the NARP booth at Union) as well Mickey Osterreicher, General Council for NPPA. Needless to say, by the time I got to Point of Rocks, both Amtrak, and MARC were investigating as well as the yard master for Union.
By the end of the week, I had received calls from Amtrak HQ offering an official apology, and then from MARC with an apology along with stating that the conductor who is now retired was sternly reminded by MARC that even as a CSX employee he must follow Amtrak policy at DC Union.
Long story short, I did seven years in the Coast Guard before going to WaPo so I've been on the other side of the whole terrorism thing in DHS, but at the same time, I do not recall ever signing off on my rights not to be harassed either for the hell of it. It saddens me to think what will happen if there ever was another attack, because it people were really willing to give up their freedoms that first year after 9/11; people will do the same thing again.
It's become a sad time to be a railfan.
But, it's not all bad news either. A year later, I had a trip to Pittsburgh, and not only did I have no trouble getting a picture of my train, but station staff and employees jumped in with big smiling faces and wanting to be in the picture.
Thanks for sharing your story, and thanks even more for standing up for your rights and ensuring that the now-retired conductor was re-educated. Your story matches perfectly with my personal experience with WMATA, and the MARC incident that spawned this thread.
It's depressing that so many front line employees feel like they can just make up whatever rules they want, especially when (like in this case) they're in direct opposition to the policies of their employers.
The sense of euphoria that flows from misbegotten sense of power can be quite intoxicating unfortunately. Most of these guys probably have not even bothered to complete the homework of reading the actual rules that they were given during their training, if there was any training on the matter at all. So they just make up whatever makes them feel good in terms doing something they think is important, never mind the rules and law.
I too am a member of the NPPA and I make it a point to leave my member large badge in the clear pocket that is on the front of my jacket .
While dont shoot as much PJ as I used to back in college.
I will allwas keep paying my dues to support a long time organization that stands up for photog rights
And what protects PJs also helps the other photogs out there too !
Is this mostly a phenomenon that is more common the closer one is to DC? I haven't had any problems taking pictures out here in California.
The 2 times I have gone northbound through DC on the Silver Meteor I went up front to watch the engine change and both times the change crew was more than willing to let me stand behind them and get pics and video. In fact the second time several pax came up, many simply curious and one of the change crew suggested when good photo opps were coming up. And I had no trouble walking to the back of our train where the Beech Grove and another Inspection Car had been coupled on and taking close pics of those.
In the case of California I know San Diego's station has experienced this kind of anti-photography security theater in the past. I've personally run into plenty of problems with exercising my right to legal photography here in Texas as well. This kind of authoritative arrogance is not limited to any one geographical area and occurs all over the country with surprising regularity. Which probably wouldn't bother me so much if we didn't also claim to be the land of the free.
I have Never been stoped ? freom taking a photo of a Train since
sept 11 2001 ! northwest Railfan
Reminds me of an English streetcar fan I know who toured Russia back in iron curtain days to visit, ride and photograph as many streetcar systems as possible, including many of the smaller ones that most people probably don't know about. He says that once he was inside the country, he was able to travel around with relative ease and for the most part staff were cooperative and allowed him to take photographs, even inside carbarns and workshops. He always made sure he had small presents to give to people, such as postcards of streetcars from his local museum, which helped convince people he was just a fan and not dangerous. And people absolutely loved postcards and would ask for several to give to friends etc. So he got used to taking huge stacks of different ones. He also handed out keyrings, pens and things, all of the same museum. For bigger favours he might give people a T-shirt. As it was at that time virtually impossible to get authoritative and trustworthy maps, especially of the smaller systems, he made an attempt to create such maps by buying a city map and drawing in all the streetcar lines, locations of carbarns, service tracks etc. He said the photos he took were never a problem but these maps were and once upon leaving the country the customs official accused him of spying and it took a long discussion to convince him that he was just a harmless crank.
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