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Muni Claims It Will Clarify Its Photography Policy Soon

3:22 PM PDT on August 7, 2009

After reports of fare inspectors and drivers telling Muni passengers they can't take photos on Muni's buses and trains, the MTA is being forced to craft a photo policy and make it public. The San Francisco Appeal and WHAT IM SEEING both have stories today about Muni's elusive policy, which MTA spokesperson Judson True told the Appeal will be posted online soon, and "will say that non-commercial video and photography will be OK as long as it doesn't disturb transit."

If that's the case, it will put Muni in the middle or front of the pack nationally, depending on the specifics. New York City's MTA may be the leader in that regard, since its policy states that photography is always okay, and ancillary equipment such as tripods can be used by members of the press. The CTA in Chicago has a similar policy, though it's less clear whether members of the press require special credentials.

Boston's MBTA may be the most draconian. Citing terrorism concerns, its policy states that while non-commercial photography is okay, transit police will ask all photographers for identification, and will escort photographers off the premises if they refuse to provide it. According to a post from a local blogger, Boston transit police have gone beyond the policy's bounds in some instances.

Read about other local agencies' policies after the break.

Locally, BART is happy to allow amateur photographers to snap away, but requires anyone engaged in "commercial, educational or non-profit activity" to obtain a $250 permit, in addition to paying a "location fee." It's not clear whether that applies to members of the press, but passengers who wish to document their ride don't need a permit.

Other local agencies, including AC Transit, Caltrain, the Santa Clara Valley Transportation Authority, and SamTrans, do not have photo policies posted online. Most agencies don't publicly post photo policies, it seems, until they start having well-publicized incidents like the one shown in the above video.

Let's hope Muni leans towards the more liberal end of the photo policy spectrum, and clearly states that all photography is okay without any license, as long as it's not disruptive and isn't going to show up in any commercials or TV shows.

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