While preparation is good, I really don’t want to have to use it…

4 minute read

July 16, 2012, 11:19 PM

So I’m going to Chicago with Mom in a little more than a week.  Like every time we go to Chicago, we’re taking the Capitol Limited both ways, and we’re going to be taking the “L” to get around the city.  So far, it looks like it’s going to be a fun trip.

And then of course, you’re welcome to place your bets on how long it takes for a CTA employees with a chip on their shoulder to harass me about photography in the system.  Recall that last year, a CTA employee at Fullerton station made a scene about photography.  Additionally, I was harassed about it at Howard station in 2010.  I occasionally get the same crap from WMATA employees in DC, but I have learned that I can shut them down fairly easily just by standing up to them.  I have found that CTA employees are a little tougher to crack than the DC folks, but my lack of access to Chicago transit (living in the DC area and all) makes it harder to figure out what quickly shuts them down.

Now going into this, I have two things in my favor.  First, I have the official CTA photo policy from their website.  It states:

The general public is permitted to use hand-held cameras to take photographs, capture digital images, and videotape within public areas of CTA stations and transit vehicles for personal, non-commercial use.

Large cameras, photo or video equipment, or ancillary equipment such as lighting, tripods, cables, etc. are prohibited (except in instances where commercial and professional photographers enter into contractual agreements with CTA).

All photographers and videographers are prohibited from entering, photographing, or videotaping non-public areas of the CTA’s transit system.

All photographers and videographers are prohibited from impeding customer traffic flow, obstructing transit operations, interfering with customers, blocking doors or stairs, and affecting the safety of CTA, its employees, or customers. All photographers and videographers must fully and immediately comply with any requests, directions, or instructions of CTA personnel related to safety concerns.

In short: take all the photos you want, no tripods, stay in public areas, don’t get in the way, and don’t do anything unsafe.  Of course, the man at Fullerton proceeded to summarily disregard his employer’s own policies (since apparently, he knew better than his bosses).

Then for the second item, I confirmed the policy with CTA.  I wrote them this past Sunday on their customer comment form:

I will be visiting Chicago in about a week and a half, and would like to confirm that the photography policy listed here for personal photos is still in effect:

I am not a commercial photographer, but rather am a rail enthusiast.  In previous visits to Chicago, I have had problems with CTA employees who have told me, contrary to the published policy, that photography is prohibited, and wish to confirm the validity of this policy.  Thanks!

I explained the problem, and asked them point blank whether the policy is still actually in effect.  CTA responded the next day:

Thank you for your inquiry.  The CTA’s photo policy regarding the general public is as follows:

The general public is permitted to use hand-held cameras to take photographs, capture digital images, and videotape within public areas of CTA stations and transit vehicles for personal, non-commercial use.

We hope this information is helpful.


So not only does the website state in writing that photography is permitted, but CTA confirmed it to me in writing as well.  In theory, I should be able to be a transit nerd without being bothered.  But I know better than that, unfortunately.

So if I get confronted, I am going to show them the policy from the website, and the email confirming the policy, and politely ask them to leave me alone, since no rule is being broken.  Any further interaction on that matter will be viewed as harassment, and reported as much.  Thus, I will be taking names and photos of employees who harass me – in order to report them to CTA for harassment (but also for later public shaming in this space).  Additionally, Mom has agreed that she is going to get involved this time as well, rather than standing aside while I fight with these people alone, since she realized after last year that these people have no right to push her little boy around, especially when I was doing everything right based on what she told me to do, and she acknowledged as much.

But like I said, hopefully, I won’t ever have to pull these documents out of my bag and show them to anyone.  But I do have them, just in case.  After all, I should not have to sneak around to do something that I am perfectly within my rights to do, and I also have the right to not be harassed by employees for doing something that I am within my rights to do.

Otherwise, though, it looks like it ought to be a fun trip.  We’re going to be going to the Museum of Science and Industry to see something or other, we’re going to the Art Institute at some point, we’re getting together for lunch with the folks in the Chicago office of the organization where I work, and we’re also having authentic Chicago-style pizza at some point.  And then of course Sis and Chris will certainly have some other interesting things planned for us that I don’t know about yet.  So there’s definitely a lot to look forward to on this trip.

And then there’s Amtrak.  I love the Capitol Limited.  Look for some live-tweeting from the train (where I can – cell service is really spotty in some places), and possibly some site content from on board the train.  I want to see what this new website can do, and this is a good time to take it for a spin.

Web site: CTA Photo and Video Policy

Postscript: So leave a comment, and let me know what you think about this whole photography thing. And here's a bonus for you: if you leave a comment, my phone will play the Power Rangers communicator chime. And people will think it's the Kim Possible beep. And I'll have to go back into the back hallway in the Juice Bar to see what Zordon wants.

Categories: Amtrak, CTA, Photography