Screaming trolley driver didn't get the memo about photos on the T

Rob Grover reports an incident on a Green Line trolley at Park Street last night that makes you wonder - again - how well T workers keep up with their own written policies, in this case the one that says passengers can take pictures. In a series of tweets, he writes:

3838 at Park St. at 9pm, the motorwoman flashed interior lights on & off, screaming I can't take pics. Why am I harassed about this?

So aggravated @ the T staff harassing me about taking pics, even after they updated their photo policy weeks ago. I pay more for this?

The car was practically empty and I was taking pics of the interior w/ my phone.

I've printed out the policy before but that didn't stop 3 T staff @ Lechmere last yr. telling me I still needed a permit.

What really ticks me off is that I didn't even have my formal camera w/ me. I was taking pics on my phone!

I'm waiting on the day someone uses the See Something Say Something app & a T cop says "you still can't take pics".



Free tagging: 


Library photographers.

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Boston Public Library buildings' interiors

New Chinatown Library
Inside Oak Terrace, corner of Oak and Washington Streets
11 Oak St Boston MA 02111 or 888 Washington Street, #102
9:30am – 5:30pm Wednesdays
11:00am – 7:00pm Thursdays, Fridays
11:00am – 4:00pm Saturdays

This really irks me, that

This really irks me, that even though there never was a policy prohibiting photography, and now there isn't even really a policy about photography other than not being able to use tripods (since the policy now really comes down to you cant trespass to take photos on the T, which is really only wrong because you are trespassing).

People need to realize that they have rights, and not to let anyone take them away. Someone gives you a hard time, demand to talk to a supervisor. It would be even better if its a train driver, and it holds up the train (yeah, I know, the T is already slow enough) but if these mistaken employees start delaying service by wrongly violating your rights, we will see how fast the MBTA really makes sure everyone is aware of the actual policy.

If showing them a copy of the

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If showing them a copy of the policy doesn't "convince" them that photography is no longer prohibited just politely suggest that they give the instruction school at Charlestown (bus)/Cabot (RTL) a call and that they'll be happy to provide any further clarification.

If a motorman or inspector really wants to hash it out with the instructors, let them have at it!

Disconnects and Misdirects

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Sometimes I wonder whether the MBTA is an agency of disconnects and misdirects.

How can any T employee at this point not know the policy concerning photography? This issue has been kicked around like a dead dog for at least a few years now. Is the rank and file of the T so disconnected from A) management, B) media, C) talking to each other that drivers are oblivious to what should be a no-brainer at this point?

Or is there misdirection in the T? Management says to the public photography (with all the caveats) is okay; but to drivers the message is taking photographs is not okay?

Same goes for when drivers' choosing stops. On the 39 there is a driver who chooses which stops to release a passenger. He admitted that he chooses when to pull over. T policy says nothing about driver's discretion of when to pull over; but when asked the driver admitted he chooses when to skip a stop to release passengers.

The same has happened with their security theater. After the conflicts about whether a rider can refuse to allow an inspection would it not make sense that each T cop is told, unequivocally, any person entering a station may refuse a bag inspection and simply has to leave? From my experience the new cops are not given this information.

The most bizarre thing though is that for an organization that is supposed to provide a pubic service (and which performs fairly well, but certainly not great, all these considered), that the T is seen as a necessary adversary is sad.

Big Orgs & Info Flow

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Information flows in big organizations in really haphazard ways, especially if there isn't an easy conduit (say email that everyone uses) and people work shifts without a check in point. Worker bees ignore what the bosses say because it's confusing or inconsistent or passed to them via the same method as "the telephone game". I can see the memo that went out to everyone on this update ending up in the trash can before most people bothered to read it.

MBTA Memo and Screaming Green Line Trolley Car-wooman

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Name, rank and serial# please. It's not enough to highlight the incident. Identify the offender when possible.

I pay more for this? I pay more for this? I pay more for this? I pay more for this? Really, I do pay more for this.

Unless it is a cop who does

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Unless it is a cop who does not know the policy and is telling you to stop, just ignore any such demands from other T employees. They have no power at all to detain you. If said employee wants to call the police and delay everyone else while he or she reports you for doing nothing wrong, let that employee experience the wrath of the other riders who are being delayed.

And if the employee lays a hand on either you or your camera, feel free to summon the police yourself to press charges of assault against said employee.

Question here...

How was the passenger taking photos? I know he was using his cellphone based on the above complaint. Was he using a cellphone camera equipped with a flash? I can see this as being disturbing in the right situation.

I myself own a pro DSLR, several lenses, and six flashes. One thing I never do, is use my flash in areas where it will cause problems. Those problems being safety, causing people discomfort (they're pretty powerful, lots of blinking eyes after photos) and breaking rules (such as in museums).

If this passenger wasn't using his camera flash, and possibly blinding the train operator, then I can see why he's so pissed.

If he was using the flash, and it was hitting the train operator enough to cause a problem, then this train operator needed to explain that.

Sounds like this had the potential to turn out much better than it did for both of them.

He said he was inside the

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He said he was inside the Green Line car.

Flash could still be a distraction, but not to the same degree as someone using a flash taking a photo of an oncoming train.

Both true and false

We don't know where in the car he was. If he was way in the back, then I'll agree a flash won't bother the operator too much at all. Although, if one is using a flash equipped camera close to the operator, then we've got more of an issue, even if he is inside the car, and not outside.

At the right angle of attack, his flash will accomplish "total internal reflection" (same way fiber optic cables transmit light many miles):

And for a person outside the train to cause a problem with their flash, they need to be at an angle which allows for a maximum amount of light to transfer through the glass. Snell's Law tells us that:


Looks like no flash. Who knows what the hell the operator was yelling about?

Further details of situation

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I would personally like to thank Universal Hub for picking up on my tweets last night regarding this event.

After reading the comments, I want to clarify a few things (since I'm at home and not limited to 140 characters).

I was traveling one stop on the Green Line from Boylston to Park Street on 7/14 at approximately 8:58pm, (where I was transferring to the Red Line). I took the two pictures I was able to capture within that short trip.

Since I was out in Boston for a meeting (and not just for railfanning/photo opportunities), I didn't have my formal point-and-shoot camera with me. I only had my HTC smartphone with me, so I decided to snap a few interior pictures during my short 1-stop ride on the Green Line before transferring.

Please understand, whether using a formal camera or camera-phone, I have NOT & will never take a flash photo, use a tripod/monopod or will try to photograph a particular person. I've always done my best to uphold these reasonable photo-courtesy/safety expectations. This obviously applies to my situation last flash was used.

I boarded Type 8 car # 3838, which was part of a 2-car train (and this was NOT the lead car). I sat in the rear of the car (where there was only other other person near me after the articulated section (and probably 4 people sitting ahead of the articulation).

Right before heading into Park St. station, after taking my 1st pic, I saw the lights turn on & off in the back portion of 3838, and I figured it was an electrical problem. Once I took the 2nd pic (which I posted to Twitter), again the lights flickered and the motorwoman appeared, standing next to the motorperson cab (out of her seat). She started yelling "Sir, you can't take pictures on the train. There are no pictures allowed here", to which I responded "uh, sure...that's not what your website says, but I'll play your game". At this point, the doors opened at Park St. and I got off the train.

After being aggrevated & tweeting about this, I transferred to the Red Line (Park St. under) & waited for my Braintree train. What was so annoying to me was that after having gone through the unnecessary harassment, a man standing on the center Red Line platform had a formal point-and-shoot camera, and took a FLASH picture with NO MBTA official coming forward & telling him he couldn't. It was like a slap in the face.

As far as carrying the photo policy, I typically do only when I'm riding with the intention of taking multiple pictures w/ my point-and-shoot camera for my personal collection. Even now, I'm skeptical it's of any use to me, as I tweeted to someone earlier about shooting pictures at Lechmere station last year, when suddenly I had a T bus driver & 2 station officials approach me firmly saying I can't take pictures anywhere near T property, which the bus driver chimed-in "...for terrorist reasons". (I couldn't believe anyone was still playing that card, especially to a white-as-white local guy like myself.) After showing the photo policy, and telling them this came from the T Police department, they said unless I had a formal permit, I still couldn't take pictures anywhere on T property.

I hope this clears up any doubt involving my experience, and I hope us passengers remain firm in exposing this incredibly drawn-out multi-year problem of harassment over the T photo policy. Thanks to those who have shown their support. It is greatly appreciated.

- Rob Grover
(djimpact1 on Twitter)

Photography on the T

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It is appalling that some employees do not know MBTA policies and they certainly should be reprimanded for their actions. I thank you for your considerate actions by not using a flash which certainly is distracting to motorpersons while they operate a subway train. I wish you all the luck and hope that employees do not bother you again.