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Well, I’ll be darned – Metro passed the test.

September 10, 2011, 9:08 PM

Well, I did exactly what I said I was going to do in my previous Journal entry. I did some railfan photography on the day before the tenth anniversary of 9/11, expecting to be confronted so that I could give ’em the smackdown about not following the WMATA photo policy. And (surprisingly), Metro passed the test. 176 photos later, I left the system for the day at Glenmont without a single negative word from a Metro employee.

I was impressed. And I was being really blatant about my photography, on purpose. At one point, I was holding the camera in the air above my head and snapping photos on the platform while going through Gallery Place. I even specifically photographed the kiosk at all of the stations I visited – Glenmont, Fort Totten, and Gallery Place. Take a look:

Glenmont kiosk on the way in, photographed from the elevator.
Glenmont kiosk on the way in, photographed from the elevator.

Gallery Place kiosk, west mezzanine.
Gallery Place kiosk, west mezzanine.

Fort Totten kiosk, photographed from the escalator up to the Red Line platform.
Fort Totten kiosk, photographed from the escalator up to the Red Line platform.

Glenmont kiosk on the way out, photographed near the escalators.
Glenmont kiosk on the way out, photographed near the escalators.

Usually, photographing around the station manager kiosk will earn me a scolding about photography from a WMATA employee. Today, nothing. Very good. Metro passed the test. It’s always good when I don’t have to show anyone their employer’s photography policy.

And just in case anyone’s wondering, I picked the weekend of the 9/11 anniversary to do this test on purpose. The reason is that I knew that Metro would be a little on edge, and I knew that they would have extra people out in system. When I arrived at Glenmont, there were four Montgomery County cops stationed outside the entrance. One of them was carrying a shotgun. Yes, a shotgun, like one would go out hunting with. Then when the train arrived at Glenmont, two more Montgomery County cops got off. Then Fort Totten looked like a typical day. At Gallery Place, I saw two Transit officers standing on the bridge over the Red Line tracks. Gallery Place was messed up, however, due to single-tracking due to a trackwork project going on between Dupont Circle and Judiciary Square. Thus the Glenmont platform was closed off completely. Then going back, Gallery Place was still goofy (expected), Fort Totten looked completely normal, and all the cops were gone at Glenmont. Elsewhere in the system, my friend Kelly got caught by the “random” bag searches in the name of “security” (discussed here) at Mt. Vernon Square station. I like to call this warrantless search “Metro Opens Bags”, a play on Metro’s “Metro Opens Doors” slogan.

And the icing on the cake: While I didn’t particularly care what the photos from this outing looked like, since the act of photographing in itself was more important than what the results looked like, I did end up with a few useful photos. For instance:

Well-lighted platform edge at Gallery Place lower level.
Well-lighted platform edge at Gallery Place lower level.

Rohr cab window.
Rohr cab window.

Breda cab window.
Breda cab window.

Platform pylon lights out at Glenmont.
Platform pylon lights out at Glenmont.

So all in all: SCORE! Metro did very well in not trampling my civil liberties. I had fun. And I got some decent pictures. I’m glad that Metro was on its best behavior, since I didn’t want to have to document any confrontations, though I was prepared to argue with some Metro employees. And admittedly, there was that little voice in the back of my head that told me that there was the possibility that I might not come home tonight, potentially spending a night in the slammer in the process of defending my right to photograph – a form of speech. But Metro did well. No issues.

Funny, though, is a conversation that I had with a Metro employee as I was leaving. There were no working street escalators going up at Glenmont on the bus loop side, and so because of my foot, I took the elevator up (otherwise I’d walk). I encountered a Metro employee, still wearing his vest, who was leaving for the day. I believe that he was genuinely surprised when I told him about how I tested Metro on its photography policy today, and that Metro passed with flying colors. He didn’t quite know how to react, and then started to say, “You know, ’cause of 9/11…” and I kind of cut him off right there, and said, “Exactly – I picked this day on purpose because I knew that Metro was going to be a bit on edge, and I was testing them to make sure that they wouldn’t trample on my civil liberties. And Metro did very well.” He was speechless for a few moments. I think he was surprised that someone would actually test Metro to make sure that they are following their own rules. But in the end, I’m actually proud of Metro for recognizing that I’m harmless (I’d even go so far as to say I’m a friend of Metro) and not harassing me about photography. Let’s admit it – it’s much less stressful to speak about something that Metro has done right rather than about something that Metro has done wrong.

So there you go. Everything is super. Good work, Metro! Let’s keep that non-harassment of photographers going.

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

Song: Heavy equipment operator destroys a car, on purpose. It's weird to see the moment when the car becomes a total loss.

Quote: Then tomorrow I have a few shops I need to hit. I plan to hit the Borders in Silver Spring for one last visit (they close Tuesday), and then I need to go to Aardvark to get some different earplugs for swimming that won't pop out mid-lap.

Categories: Photography, Security, WMATA