New Photo Pass Policy

Discussion relating to commuter rail, light rail, and subway operations of the MBTA.

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Postby RailBus63 » Thu Jun 17, 2004 11:05 am

Patrick,

As a native Bostonian, I'm disappointed that you were hassled so much by MBTA employees. The MBTA can restrict photography at stations, but if you were standing at the public road crossings, then the train operators at Capen Street and along the C branch had no business telling you that photography is not allowed. It is absolutely legal to take photographs of MBTA vehicles from public property.

Unfortunately, railfans being hassled by MBTA employees is nothing new. A large number of MBTA employees distrust railfans and do not want us taking their pictures. I have been taking photographs on the MBTA system for over 25 years, and I've had numerous such encounters with employees. The photo pass used to shut them up in the past, but the current anti-terror hysteria clearly has given a new backbone to some overzealous employees. I'm planning to go back to Boston this summer, but I honestly don't have any desire to put up with that sort of mistreatment. I'll probably spend more time photographing the new buses and trackless trolleys outside of the downtown area. At least you can get plenty of good pictures from public sidewalks, and have a better argument about photographing from public property if someone calls the cops on you.

Jim D.
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Postby Robert Paniagua » Thu Jun 17, 2004 11:27 am

Well Jim D, I did something EXTRAORDINARY on the Red Line back in late 2002, with my VIDEO camera. First, I was at Alewife Station on board car 01864 bound for Braintree, and had my camcorder our with my floodlight on, videoing the train inteiriour, including the cab thru the window. Then, I shut off the floodlight, which of course you shouldn't use for any reason, and then shot out front off that 01800 window for the entire length from Alewife Station till Braintree and almost Cadigan Yard. a motorperson saw me with the camera, but believe it or not, didn't say anything :-) Then, while that train was sitting at Quincy Adams, I then stepped out into the platform, and got the exterior shot of 01864 and then its cab from the outside motorperson's window. Then as crews changed, I then got back to my railbuff's seat and then got video of the last segment between there and Braintree. Things went great for me right then and there. The other motorperson who boarded at Quincy Adams for Braintree also saw my videocam but also didn't say anything. I then put that camera away so nobody else would see my videocam.
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Postby Pete » Mon Jun 28, 2004 4:51 pm

I try to tell somebody working wherever I'm photographing that I'm going to be there. They're always ok with it, and thank me for being considerate and concerned enough to do so.

But you can't do that from outside a train. Unfortunately T employees are often ignorant of policies, such as the one who commented to me that the passenger he'd just scolded on the platform should know better than to think photography was allowed. I countered that it is allowed, with a pass. He didn't have an answer.

If you have a pass, try to politely explain to whoever confronts you that it's OK and that the police have authorized you. Chances are if you're courteous and show an interest in what they're doing, they'll be relieved and courteous back. If they don't react so well (which in a great number of cases, I'll bet, is in part to blame on a careless photographer), talk to the police or to another MBTA employee. Explain what you're doing, that you have the pass, and that you're telling them this to avoid any potential confusion. They will appreciate your being forthcoming, and your experience overall will be much smoother.
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From whence does a pass come?

Postby Agent at Clicquot » Tue Jul 06, 2004 9:27 am

Hi all

Good thing I checked this thread ... I had some feeble ideas on shooting along the T, now I know the pass requirements have changed.

Can someone remind me where a pass is obtained?

Tis odd that this enforced policy (hang out in South Station with a camera on a tripod, you'll see) has nary a mention on the mbta's website.

Thanks,

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Postby Otto Vondrak » Tue Jul 06, 2004 10:13 am

When I was in town June 11, the only time I was asked for a photo permit was at North Station on the Green Line (I could not produce one, so I left), and while standing in the middle of Capen Street taking a picture of PCC's. The PCC operator stopped her car and told me photography was not allowed and asked me to display a permit, I politely shouted back that "Don't need one... public street! I'm not on T property!" pointing to the ground. She didnt seem satisfied, but I was pretty certain I was in the clear. I figured by the time anyone was going to drive down to tell me otherwise, I would be long gone.

The MBTA photo permit process is this: You go to Marketing for an application. They take that application (which is in effect a waiver to allow the police to do a background check on you) and transfer it to MBTA Police. The Police will respond within 5-7 days and might issue you a permit- but only for a specific location and time. Hey, thanks but no thanks. I'll go spend my tourist dollars somewhere else.

Taking pictures in New York is still not a problem. It's the People's Republic of New Jersey we have to worry about- NJT is trying to effectively BAN all photography.

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Postby NellsChoo » Tue Jul 06, 2004 3:48 pm

The whole thing's just plain stupid... what damage can a photo do? A shot of just a train can't help a terrorist much, can it? A good terrorist wouldn't even need a photo! Would they? Seems to me railfans should instead be looked at as a first line of defence. If one of them sees something odd, they would be the first to report it. After all, they are almost as interested as the T to make sure anything rail related doesn't get wiped out...

JD
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Postby Agent at Clicquot » Tue Jul 06, 2004 4:29 pm

Jonelle, et al:

>>What damage can a photo do?<<

I believe the military types call this sort of thing 'reconnaissance'.


>>Seems to me railfans should instead be looked at as a first line of defence.<<

I agree that it would be nice if the railfan community was seen as an asset. I doubt terrorists would care to snoop around areas frequented by folks with all manner of cameras, an idea how to use 'em, and knowledge of what passes for 'normal'.


>>After all, they are almost as interested as the T to make sure anything rail related doesn't get wiped out...<<

Our freedoms are being abridged with the paranoia infiltrating railroad management ... Maybe it's time for a Million Railfan march on Washington? :-)

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Postby Ron Newman » Wed Jul 07, 2004 7:50 am

Tripods are not a good idea anyway. They really can cause a tripping hazard in a crowded area (or anywhere that blind people might walk).
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Postby rorschi » Wed Jul 07, 2004 8:34 am

Otto Vondrak wrote:When I was in town June 11, (...) and while standing in the middle of Capen Street taking a picture of PCC's. The PCC operator stopped her car and told me photography was not allowed ...


Amazing: I had the same problem on the same day (June 11th, around 5 p.m.) at the same location, also with a female driver... but could do my shots on June 14th.

Greetings from Germany

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Postby RailBus63 » Wed Jul 07, 2004 12:14 pm

Otto Vondrak wrote:The MBTA photo permit process is this: You go to Marketing for an application. They take that application (which is in effect a waiver to allow the police to do a background check on you) and transfer it to MBTA Police. The Police will respond within 5-7 days and might issue you a permit- but only for a specific location and time. Hey, thanks but no thanks. I'll go spend my tourist dollars somewhere else.


I was under the impression that the photo pass was good for one month (instead of three months) but was otherwise unrestricted as to location. The old photo pass listed this as "All Lines-Public Areas Only".

If anyone has obtained an MBTA photo pass recently under the revised policy, your help would be appreciated in clearing this up. Thanks!

JD
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Postby Pete » Wed Jul 07, 2004 12:18 pm

RailBus63 wrote:
Otto Vondrak wrote:The MBTA photo permit process is this: You go to Marketing for an application. They take that application (which is in effect a waiver to allow the police to do a background check on you) and transfer it to MBTA Police. The Police will respond within 5-7 days and might issue you a permit- but only for a specific location and time. Hey, thanks but no thanks. I'll go spend my tourist dollars somewhere else.


I was under the impression that the photo pass was good for one month (instead of three months) but was otherwise unrestricted as to location. The old photo pass listed this as "All Lines-Public Areas Only".

If anyone has obtained an MBTA photo pass recently under the revised policy, your help would be appreciated in clearing this up. Thanks!

JD


It still says that. I don't know who's been starting the rumor (assuming that's what it is) that the pass is good for only a specific time and place, but my two-week-old pass still has the blanket permission.
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Postby RailBus63 » Wed Jul 07, 2004 2:04 pm

My son and I railfanned for a few hours on Sunday morning on the Lowell Line at West Medford and Wilmington and on the Haverhill Line at Ballardvale. We had no problems from anyone, and a conductor on one of the inbound MBTA trains shouted a friendly greeting as the train left the station. I hope to have more time on my next trip, and will definitely pick up a photo pass beforehand.

As info, the Lowell train was powered by #1137 and the Haverhill train by #1063. The Amtrak trains both had P42's - #81 and F40 cab unit #90213 (which featured Downeaster lettering) were on the first southbound train of the day, and #170 and #90220 (with Amtrak lettering only) were on the second train.

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Postby NellsChoo » Thu Jul 08, 2004 2:34 pm

Most of the time the T employees servicing Ayer smile or wave at us. Otherwise they are just oblivious. I did get one work train "driver" in trouble not because the T saw him in a photo, but because they saw him without the proper safety attire. I felt pretty bad about that one...
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Postby jwhite07 » Thu Jul 08, 2004 6:39 pm

Generally, Commuter Rail employees are far more lenient towards railfans than bus or subway employees. They're used to seeing railfans, and quite a few of them are themselves railfans. I dunno what the deal is with bus and subway employees, but they can at times be really nasty when they see a photographer!

Nonetheless, beware when you are railfanning in Commuter Rail territory in this day and age. Lenient or not, Commuter Rail employees are now required to report any suspicious activity -- the instruction specifically includes photographers -- to the dispatcher. I assume dispatchers are then supposed to notify MBTA police.
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Postby Ron Newman » Thu Jul 08, 2004 8:12 pm

It is legal to stand on a public street or bridge or on non-railroad private property and take pictures of trains. So what exactly would the police charge you with?
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