Muni Claims It Will Clarify Its Photography Policy Soon

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.

  • great background on the photo policy of Transit Authorities in other cities. a very well-rounded story, guys!

  • Adam

    Actually, the PATH in the NY/NJ area has the most draconian photo policy: they state flat out that they don’t allow photos without a permit. And they enforce this zero-tolerance policy very well; it even goes as far to say as they don’t allow photos OF the PATH, not just ON the PATH, but they have no power to enforce this rule when someone is standing on public property, such as Newark Avenue in Jersey City.

    This rule pisses a lot of people off, including me, especially since the PATH is one of the most historic systems.

  • ShSimpson

    I support the spirit of why this kid did this video but really. What in the hell is he going to do with a video of this quality. If it was to prove a point then I guess he made it but what if he hadn’t been challenged. What good is this video then, I would really like to understand what he was doing in the first place. As much as I like to protect our rights to take pictures and video I also support the private citizens right to not be photographed if that is what they want. I heard the camera operator (I think he is a far cry from a photographer/videographer) say that he was a minor. He can hardly holler free rights of the press at this age. There are too many people that think because they can upload to a YouTube type of service or to a blog and that makes them a representative of the press.

    This whole open photography vs terrorism vs political mileage of the same has gotten out of hand. People are going out and taking pictures simply to prove a point. You certainly aren’t going to get the rules changed by doing this. You need to get involved in the political process by contacting those that can enact changes in the rules. I’d bet my last dollar that this kid had never emailed or written to anyone about this policy. It is much more fun to use the piss-off factor.

  • david vartanoff

    last i looked, all of these agencies were part of ‘government.’ As such, it seems to me that documenting some condition–such as a booth clerk in the NY subway coppings z’s–is no different from a picture of a pothole, cracked sidewalk etc. This is all gathering data precedent to “petition for redress of grievance” an explicit right in the Constitution.

  • scott sachs

    M U N I – drivers drink alcohol (seen it) while driving, stop the train while it’s filled with passengers so that they may enter a store and purchase food/drink, recently one prohibited a mother and her several month old child (in a stroller) from getting on the light rail tellilng her that he won’t be responsible for the baby being injured while brought onto the train (we fixed him), each bus, and particularly light rail trains, have multiple cameras and video a MUNI Officer is no different than videoing police as they “interact” with the public, a medium that is accepted as evidence. MUNI emplyees, police, administrators…none of them should expect or have the ability to demand that they are NOT filmed/photographed.

  • Middle of the road

    Plain stupid. No one can stop photography or videography.
    One can ALWAYS use a hidden camera, no matter what the rule is.

    Let’s not forget it’s a public space. Unless someone is being portrayed in an embarrassing manner then what’s the beef?
    More terror hysteria BS?

    And yes public transit officials who bend rules, and abuse powers should be recorded, and dealt with accordingly. Otherwise our society will be left to run by incompetents.

    I support rights to privacy, artist’s right to capture whatever they see freely, activist right to monitor freely.

    I do not support blatant way of enforcing rules.

    If we are to find a working solution there would need for more dialogue. And people to become more considerate and tolerant at the same time.

  • Geoff

    The kid is right. From what I remember of my communications law class there was no reasonable expectation of privacy here as they were on a public conveyance.

    The Muni cop threatening to sue a kid over exercising his rights? Shameful. Makes me feel good that he couldn’t win that case. You lose again Muni.

  • did bart recently change their policy? i was asked to leave bart about a year ago for taking pictures. the station agent told me she was going to call bart police if i didn’t leave. she cited “national security.” knowing bart police, i didn’t want to push my luck.


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