MBTA reaffirms your right to take photos on the T

Updated MBTA photo policy - dispenses with requirement to show ID if asked, but see the section about not taking photos of "restricted areas," basically inside normally locked doors and the like where only workers go. MBTA Transit Police tweeted this means:

If you are in a public area and can see it, you can photograph it. Stay behind the yellow line!

The policy might be worth printing out if you do take photos with something other than a cellphone, just in case you run across a T worker who objects to you clicking, since they still seem to be out there:

Except as otherwise permitted by law (e.g. in conjunction with a lawful arrest, etc.), MBTA Transit Police Officers or other MBTA officials shall not demand or take any action to delete, view or confiscate Images taken by any person.

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Bravo to the Transit Police

By on

Bravo to the Transit Police for recognizing in writing -- if not necessarily in practice, depending whether officers get the memo -- that photography in public spaces is not a crime.

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Restricted Areas?

By on

So I can't take a picture of all of the empty Marlboro boxes that the track workers have left on the inbound electrical box in Kenmore Station and submit it to UHub, because that electrical box is 3 feet on the other side of the platform wall?

No smoking in the tunnels, track fires yada yada yada my ass.

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I think the policy is still out of line.

By on

This policy doesn't give much at all -- any photo with even a glimpse of track in it is forbidden.

I can't imagine this would stand up in court, but why waste the time and money litigating it?

A reasonable photography policy might acknowledge the right to take pictures of anything visible from a place to which the public has access. (i.e., if you're not trespassing, the photos are legit.)

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Last year I spoke with Chief

By on

Last year I spoke with Chief MacMillan regarding the evolution of the photo policy, after an earlier run-in with a T cop.

While the wording is perhaps not the clearest, I believe the intention of the "restricted area" clause means that you're going to have a problem taking photos from a place where you shouldn't be standing in the first place, photography or no photography. In other words, if you're on the tracks taking photos, you will have a problem. If you've picked a lock and you're in an employee-only area, you will have problems.

If you're standing on the platform and your photo happens to include the tracks or the door to the employee-only area, you're good.

Now again, what the policy says and what the cop on the street (or platform) tells you are different animals. If you're taking photos on the platform and a cop approaches you and demands that you stop, it's up to you to decide how important it is to maintain your rights to take photos and push back against the cop.

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Interesting, but irrelevant.

By on

While the wording is perhaps not the clearest, I believe the intention of the "restricted area" clause means that you're going to have a problem taking photos from a place where you shouldn't be standing in the first place, photography or no photography. In other words, if you're on the tracks taking photos, you will have a problem. If you've picked a lock and you're in an employee-only area, you will have problems.

If you're standing on the platform and your photo happens to include the tracks or the door to the employee-only area, you're good.

Well, if that's what they meant, they should have said it. But it's quite definitely not what they said, what they said is:

Images of designated Restricted Areas (e.g. an area not open to the public, an area designated for “MBTA Employees Only”, etc.), are not permitted. Any person observed taking Images on, in, or of a Restricted Area may be subject to law enforcement action as appropriate.

That "or of" didn't find its way in there by accident; the policy seems quite clear in forbidding you to take pictures whose image depicts a restricted area, irrespective of where you were standing when you took it.

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In order to prove that said

By on

In order to prove that said photo included restricted areas visible from the public, the officer would need to view the photo. And you are under no obligation to show him your photos. The policy even spells that out.

MBTA Transit Police Officers or other MBTA officials shall not demand or take any action to delete, view or confiscate Images taken by any person.

Again, the officer can say whatever he wants, even if the policy did spell out taking photos of restricted areas vs. taking photos from restricted areas.

The officer can make up whatever BS he wants. A security guard in Washington's Union Station told me the first week of September last year that it was illegal to take photos of the intricate metal grillwork covering ventilation ducts. "Me: Photography in the public spaces is completely allowed in Union Station. Guard: Not that kind. Not after 9/11". [The snarky side of me wishes I'd thought of replying with, "Well, it's only the first week of September, so until the eleventh I will continue to take photos."]

It is up to each individual citizen to decide how far he will push back against authority that is stepping on his rights.

Remember, the T police are now encouraging you to take photos of criminal and suspicious activities. That activity could be on the tracks. So they can't be both encouraging and banning photography.

But again, what any policy says and what happens on the ground are two very different creatures.

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Policy is a POS

By on

It's internally inconsistent. Generally, when a piece of legislation or regulation is internally inconsistent, it's because someone wants to leave weasel room.

In order to prove that said photo included restricted areas visible from the public, the officer would need to view the photo.

To prove it, yes. But seeing you point your camera at a restricted area (the tracks) is probably cause.

And if you take a photo of the tracks and then post it on your blog site or Facebook, that's pretty conclusive proof right there.

I'd label this policy a POS.

Remember, the T police are now encouraging you to take photos of criminal and suspicious activities. That activity could be on the tracks. So they can't be both encouraging and banning photography.

Of course they can. That's precisely the way dysfunctional bureaucracies operate. Couple of years back Amtrak was running a "send us your best pictures of Amtrak trains in motion" contest, and Amtrak police roughed up a guy who was standing on a station platform taking a picture down the tracks as a train pulled out.

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Look, it's irrelevant what

By on

Look, it's irrelevant what any policy says. Any cop can twist any policy to serve his needs, and it's up to the citizen to decide how to react to such abuse of authority.

Take the following clause.

Persons must not interfere with transportation activity while taking Images.

Cannot a cop say that your photography is distracting the operator of the approaching train, even though you are standing several feet from the platform edge? Sure he can.

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That's probably why the T relaxed the policy

By on

Google Street View didn't exist until 6-7 years after 9-11. Back then, terrorists actually had to "case" bridges, transit stations, and building plazas.

Now the Street View Car gets all of the streets, and the Street View Hand Truck and Segway get all of the pedestrian paths, train stations, and airports. On top of this, a lot of buildings have maps, directories, and other building plan-like documents available on the internet. So you can easily plan a terrorist attack from the comfort of your own home!

Interestingly, I believe Israel and Google had a spat about the level of detail available in a landmark area that was a high-profile terror target.

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Besides, even if Street View

By on

Besides, even if Street View never came around, the notion that photography is a precursor to terrorism is a movie plot that has absolutely no ground in reality.

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Tracks not restricted

By on

I think the policy means what you say. It does not say the tracks are a restricted area; that's an assumption here. The tracks are actually anything but a restricted area; people are on them all day--inside the cars. I think this discussion is going off track :)

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Tracks are absolutely restricted

By on

You're on the wrong track here. The tracks are absolutely a restricted area -- try walking on them and see how fast you get arrested. Don't try to derail the discussion with false assertions or bad puns.

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If we don't start to focus on

By on

If we don't start to focus on the real issues at hand, I shutter to think at the puns that are approaching down the line. I'm afraid I don't see any light at the end of the tunnel here. And even if I did, it would probably be illegal to shoot.

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Another reason not to take

By on

Another reason not to take the T. If you would rather not have pictures taken of you and your kids for who knows what reason by some ill-mannered, at best, stranger then don't use the T.

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I assume you keep your kids

By on

I assume you keep your kids in an opaque bubble then?

Because, you know, those same strangers can legally photograph your kids at the Public Garden and Boston Common and along the Greenway.

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there is an obvious

By on

there is an obvious difference between the Greenway and a subway car; on the Greenway you can walk away from the photographer.... that isn't as easily done on the Red Line.

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Leave the house much?

By on

Why is the T any different from any other public place? How could avoiding the T prevent people from taking pictures of you and your kids, unless you never went out in public?

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Many people, including some

By on

Many people, including some cops, do not understand that they have no expectation of privacy when out in public.

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Annoying

By on

People who take pictures on the T are extremely annoying. Today I saw some tourists taking a picture of a very small portion of the wall at the State Street stop on the Blue Line. I can just imagine them going home to Montana or Lapland and saying to their friends and relatives "this is a very small portion of the wall at the State Street stop on the Blue Line" as everyone oohs and ahs.

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im glad you only take

By CaT on

im glad you only take price-winning shots...
why on earth did it annoy you that some tourist took pictures of a "small piece of wall"?
what else bothers you... ?

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Yeah, I hate it when

By on

Yeah, I hate it when photographers taking photos of station design details cause me to miss ten trains in a row and get home two hours late.

Those darn photographers ruining the commute for all.

I wonder if riders back in 1897 had the same problem with tourists and their stupid Kodak Brownies.

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Tracks are OK

By on

I've updated the original post with a clarification from MBTA Transit Police about how if you're in a public area, you can take photos.

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Thanks for the update. That

By on

Thanks for the update. That is as I had figured.

Remember too, that if a cop is giving you a hard time, do not feel intimidated against using that same camera to record him. Hopefully Massachusetts cops have learned that it is not illegal to photograph and record them.

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Policy conflicts with tweet

By on

So, are they going to update the policy to say what they are claiming (via tweet) it means? Or are they going to leave the ambiguity in place to protect themselves when some T cop inevitably gets out of line and harasses a photographer?

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I'll say it again: if a cop

By on

I'll say it again: if a cop is set on harassing you for taking photos, he's going to do so regardless of the officially published policy. He will find some way to justify his stop and will undoubtedly try to intimidate you into stopping, and it is up to you to stand your ground and not cave in.

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Yes, but

By on

Yes, I completely agree that an out-of-line cop can and will harass you for any reason or for no reason. But, a clearly-worded policy makes the harassee's life a little easier. I'm not sure why you seem to be arguing against insisting on a clearly-worded policy?

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Here's what I'm talking about:

By on

What it says:

Persons may take photographic or video images, including but not limited to film, digital or video recordings (Images) of MBTA Property, including but not limited to stations, buses, trains, or other vehicles for their personal use. Persons must not interfere with transportation activity while taking Images.
Images of designated Restricted Areas (e.g. an area not open to the public, an area designated for “MBTA Employees Only”, etc.), are not permitted. Any person observed taking Images on, in, or of a Restricted Area may be subject to law enforcement action as appropriate.

What it could say:

The MBTA imposes no restrictions on taking photographic or video images, for personal noncommercial use, while on any part of MBTA property that is open to the public or to fare-paying passengers, except that persons taking pictures may not unreasonably annoy others, or impede vehicular or pedestrian traffic flow, or otherwise interfere with transit operations. Use of lighting, wires, tripods, or other equipment substantially larger than a hand-held camera requires a permit.

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taking pictures may not

taking pictures may not unreasonably annoy others

define "unreasonably" - including words like that make for BAD policy.

The MBTA has hassled me numerous times even after I've pulled out my trusty copy of their photo policy before. I'm hoping this will make it somewhat better but I doubt it. Usually it's best to just demand to speak to a supervisor the moment you get any push back from the T officers for taking photos.

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The best wording would have

By on

The best wording would have been what the Transit Police tweeted --

if you are in a public area and can see it, you can photograph it. Stay behind the yellow line!

Simple, to the point, and unambiguous.

I am sure that some lawyer though felt it necessary to embellish the wording, which in the end made it more ambiguous.

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I should have

By on

taken a photo this morning as two undercover Boston Police Officers where allowed to ride the Needham line into work for free. Must be nice, shit i live and work in Boston. Why do i have to pay?

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Related topic: I was taking

By on

Related topic: I was taking pictures of the Hancock Tower over the weekend and a security guard came out of the building and told me that I couldn't take pictures of the building.

I was right next to the building so I may have been on private property. But she didn't say I was on private property - she told me I was not allowed to take pictures of the building. I just went across the street and kept taking pictures.

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You should have ignored

By on

You should have ignored her.

She has no detection powers despite what she might think from her uniform and shiny badge.

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And these comments illustrate...

By on

...why you are all a bunch of whiny cunts.

Oh yes please we want to take pictures of the T...wait we hate the T...wait we hate the policy...wait I can't take a photo of the tracks, wait my rights are being squashed, waaaah.

I wish the founding fathers were here to beat you all to death.

Maybe if all you people with liberal arts degrees had real jobs or were doing something constructive, you wouldn't be sitting around snapping photos of some guy banging plastic drums at park street.

Funny these same people complain about the police using cameras in public places to watch them.

Hypocrites and cry babies.

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Get a life

By on

Maybe if all you people with liberal arts degrees had real jobs or were doing something constructive, you wouldn't be sitting around snapping photos of some guy banging plastic drums at park street.

I'd rather spend my days taking photos of the world around me than spend my hours criticizing those around me who actually feel passionately about an issue and strive to see policy changes effected.

But to each his own.

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I wish the founding fathers

By on

I wish the founding fathers were here to beat you all to death.

You mean the ones who wrote the First Amendment, under whose principles public photography is a protected activity?

Just checking.

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How soon we forget

Ronald Reagan called the Central American death squads "the moral equivalent of our founding fathers". Therefore, our Founding Fathers would beat you to death like any other death squad.

QED

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Bravo!

I did not see that one coming.

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EEEEdddddiiiiieee

By on

Your right on the Money!

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Well

By on

Looks like Eddie got what he wanted...attention.

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Edddddddiiiiiiieeeeeeee

By anon on

And your degree is in...? I'm sure if your degree or career was even remotely constructive and/or impressive you wouldn't be wasting your time bitching online about others who take photos on the T.

For the record, the only real whiner on here is you.

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