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So, yeah, here’s what happened with Transit…

June 5, 2008, 9:42 PM

So as I mentioned in my earlier Journal entry, I had a run-in with Metro Transit Police while on my way in to see Matthew Tilley. So here’s the story.

As you know, I’m a bit of a railfan, and I’m interested in many of the technical aspects of the system. In this case, I was photographing out the back of the train, as I’d done numerous times in the past. I’ve done this on the C, D, E, F, G, J, K, and L routes, and published the results on Transit Center (which will be back, I promise!). For the non-rail buff, those route letters mean I’ve photographed just about everywhere on the system except for the Red Line. So, coming in, I figured, what the heck, I might as well start a railfan trip off right, and get photos of the B Route, which I’d not done before.

So I’m at the bulkhead door of Alstom 6075, and I’m doing fine. I started photographing at the Silver Spring portal (too dark in the tunnels), and I was having a blast, if I do say so myself, even photographing the non-WMATA work trains laying gravel on the adjacent CSX tracks. So at Rhode Island Avenue, two Transit Police officers come on board. “Sir, could you please come with us?” Yes, me. I’m like, okay… Turns out that someone had reported my activity, and they were checking things out. They didn’t know who reported it, but okay. I’m guessing a WMATA employee did, since the officers mentioned that they were told I’d been using a tripod, and the average WMATA rider doesn’t even know that a regulation exists governing tripods. I do. I know that the use of tripods, monopods, etc. is prohibited on Metro. That’s why I left mine at home, despite that I could get some really great shots of the underground stations that way.

What’s funny is that right up front, they admitted they didn’t have any real reason to stop me, except that someone called it into them and they had to check it out. And they gave me the “since 9/11” mumbo jumbo as well, and how photographing the railroad raises some eyebrows, and that WMATA doesn’t take kindly to photographing the railroad (vs. the stations) because they’re considered “no trespassing” areas (meaning that if I wandered in there outside of a train, I would be considered to be trespassing). I, however, was on a train. However, if WMATA would give me the keys to a Breda and the full run of the system all to myself, I wouldn’t complain.

However, anytime someone plays the 9/11 card with me about photography, that’s when I stop listening. See, if you play the 9/11 card, it really means you have no real reason to stop me, so shoo. Get lost and go find some real crime to deal with. Reminds me of a certain hall director I once had who shall remain nameless who was quick to play the race card on just about anything, which indicated to me whenever she did so that she had no real argument.

Of course, if anyone ever did try to take me into court for this, I think I could probably find a lawyer specializing in civil liberties cases who would happily take the case pro bono. After all, in the United States, anything in plain view from a public area can be photographed for the most part. And one can argue that the train is a public area, as anyone can ride, and therefore, excluding areas covered by other laws, such as that part of the Metro that is on Pentagon property, I’m fine.

So okay, sure. Still, we’ve established that I’ve done nothing wrong, and that Metro has more than its fair share of employees who are jackasses (which we knew already). And I will also admit that the two Transit officers were nothing but polite and professional, and they finished up in time for me to catch Breda 4047 for the rest of the trip to Metro Center.

And I’ll show you the photos just as soon as I get my computer back in order. Plus, Matthew and I had a great railfan trip, which included more off-the-back-of-the-train photography.

Web site: The Photographer’s Right: A Downloadable Flyer Explaining Your Rights When Stopped or Confronted for Photography

Song: "In the Metro" by the Capitol Steps

Quote: Speaking of photography problems, here's an interesting news story sent to me by my friend Josh Baugher. This is about photographing at Union Station in DC. Watch the security guard in this clip. Just as the Amtrak spokesman is telling the news crew that photography is permitted in the Amtrak sections of Union Station, here comes Mr. Security Guard telling them to shut down. When questioned, he can't even cite what he's enforcing. Idiot. I hope his family is ashamed of him. Related to this, there's this from BoingBoing, and this from DCist.

Categories: Security, WMATA