So I got to ride Metro in the dark tonight!

5 minute read

November 16, 2011, 1:03 AM

First of all, yes – it is in fact 1:00 in the morning as I write this. Right now, I am sufficiently pissed off to the point that I can’t sleep until I get a few things off my chest.

So after a wonderful evening out with my coworkers in Adams Morgan, I headed over to take the Metro home. Because of where I was, I walked over to Woodley Park. By the way, now that I’m in so much better shape, the walk through Adams Morgan and out to Woodley Park station was like nothing. It used to be quite a hike.

So I got my Red Line train to Glenmont at Woodley Park, and to my surprise, the third and fourth cars in the eight-car train, Rohrs 1261 and 1260 respectively, were in service and dark. I boarded 1260. There were only two lights on in the entire car – over the left-side end door at each end of the train when facing the bulkhead door at each end, i.e. over the 5-6 door, and the 7-8 door. In other words, Rohr 1260 looked like this:

Rohr 1260 with lights out.  Most of the light you see here is from station lighting at NoMa-Gallaudet U station.

The only lights in this photo are the one light over the 5-6 door and the canopy lights from NoMa-Gallaudet University (formerly New York Avenue) station.

I took ten photos of the darkened train, all from my seat. Eight with my point-and-shoot, and two with my phone. Apparently, I made a Transit Police officer wet his pants when he saw my camera, because next thing I knew, I had one of those LED flashlights shining in my face. He told me that I had “taken enough pictures”, and that if I continued, he would confiscate my camera and my cell phone and give them to Metro’s “antiterrorism” department.

My exact thought was, like hell you will, but I didn’t say that. See, for those of you not familiar with Adams Morgan, there’s pretty much only one thing that you do in Adams Morgan at night: drink. And I admit – I had a few drinks that evening, and was cognizant of the fact that I had been drinking within the previous hour. If I’m going to argue with someone, after all, I’m going to do it when I’m stone sober. So I just asked the officer, calmly, for his badge number. The officer told me that his badge number was 612. When I also asked his name, he declined to provide it, and then quickly said, “This is my stop!” and shuffled off the train at Fort Totten. See, getting a name to go with the badge number is a check on the system – since almost all the lights were out in the railcar and the officer was shining a bright light directly in my face, I couldn’t see jack, and had to shield my eyes from the flashlight to even tell if this person that I was talking to was a cop in the first place. So he could have told me anything. Name plus badge means that we can get a positive ID on the officer. I have a feeling that he knew he was in the wrong when he decided to shuffle off, and limit how deeply he was going to put his foot in his mouth.

So needless to say, I was now really peeved, because what this was is harassment, pure and simple. After all, in the document Regulation Concerning The Use By Others Of WMATA Property and Related Board Resolutions, Subpart D, Section 100.8(a)(2), it states the policy about amateur photography on Metro. That section states, “Still photography that does not require a tripod, special lighting, film crews, models, impair the normal ingress/egress or operation of Authority services and can be accomplished by a hand held camera by one person is not regulated.” Taking photos from my seat with a handheld point-and-shoot camera and a cell phone – with flash off, no less, meets that definition, and Metro does not regulate that activity.

So when I got home, I wrote Metro:

I am writing to formally make a complaint about the conduct of a Metro Transit Police Department officer. The officer’s badge number is 612, and the officer declined to give his name.

On my ride home from work this evening, I boarded car 1260 on the Red Line to Glenmont. On car 1260, all of the lights were out except for two. As this is an unusual occurrence, I took photos of the darkened railcar from my seat so as to aid in my reporting of the maintenance need to Metro. While I was photographing, Transit Police officer 612 shined a flashlight in my face and told me that I had “taken enough pictures”, and threatened to confiscate my digital camera and cell phone and give them to Metro’s “anti-terrorism” department.

This action by officer 612 is inconsistent with Metro’s own published policy on photography. Metro’s published policy on photography is located in the document entitled “Regulation Concerning The Use By Others Of WMATA Property and Related Board Resolutions”. The relevant section is in Subpart D, Section 100.8(a)(2). That section states, “Still photography that does not require a tripod, special lighting, film crews, models, impair the normal ingress/egress or operation of Authority services and can be accomplished by a hand held camera by one person is not regulated.”

While I understand that Metro is unable to discuss actions taken with individual officers, I am requesting that Metro reinforce to its Transit Police officers that there is no regulation prohibiting or otherwise regulating handheld still photography on Metro per the document “Regulation Concerning The Use By Others Of WMATA Property and Related Board Resolutions”, Subpart D, Section 100.8(a)(2).

I request that a representative from Metro Transit Police follow up with me on this matter at the Email address or phone number listed above. Thank you.

I will let you know if I ever hear back from Transit, but I should note that Metro usually is good about getting back in touch with me whenever I write them. I’m sure that Metro’s Red Line team is going to love hearing from me about this one come morning.

Meanwhile, I still find it amazing how much Metro and other government agencies hate photographers. After all, on one hand, they encourage us to inform them if we see anything unusual. And considering I usually have two cameras on me when I’m on Metro (point-and-shoot camera and my cell phone), I will document said unusual activity for future reference. But let’s not forget that the “see it, say it” recommendation only applies to entities that aren’t Metro. Metro likes to operate in the dark (in this car’s case, literally), and so shining light on Metro’s own problems is certainly unwelcome.

Considering how gung-ho officer 612 was about alleged terrorism, it seems worth reminding everyone about what entity has killed the most Metro customers and employees: Metro. The death toll attributable to terrorism on Metro is a staggering… zero. On the other hand, Metro is directly responsible for the deaths of 21 people by its own crumbling infrastructure or incompetence during the 30-some years that the rail system has been in operation. Maybe they should look inward before they start harassing their riders who have cameras. After all, the car I was on was a 1000-Series, and those railcars are documented to be rolling deathtraps. In an accident, even at low speed, 1000-Series cars will telescope or otherwise fail catastrophically, which will completely compromise the passenger area, and will happen regardless of whether the cars are on the front of the train, or in the middle of the train, and Metro still continues to run these unsafe cars in revenue service. So who are the terrorists now? I don’t take kindly to being called a terrorist (and that’s what officer 612 was doing), and I think Metro should look at itself and how many people that agency has killed before it accuses me, even slightly, of being a terrorist.

Web site: So now that I'm pissed off, here's something to (hopefully) make me less annoyed: PUPPIES!

Song: Metro from 1991. Wonder if this person ever got harassed by Transit Police for his photography...

Quote: And to think that before I was harassed by officer 612, I was preparing to make a joke about how I wasn't going to try and join the "Mile Deep Club" (the subterranean equivalent of the "Mile High Club") while riding this darkened railcar. Now I'm seriously considering taking a day off of work to picket Metro headquarters over harassment of photographers. I'm serious about my right to free speech, you see, and will not be pushed around by Metro. I've been photographing Metro for eleven years this month, and have no intentions about stopping.