Link: On improperly enforced photography laws


Since the mid-2000s, when the MTA considered a misguided and borderline unconstitutional ban on photography, many people from transit workers to cops to straphangers believe snapping photos of subways, buses and authority infrastructure will land you with a one-way trip to Guantanamo. That isn’t, of course, the case, and veteran railfans and infrastructure shutterbugs know to carry a copy of the MTA’s Rules of Conduct which state as much. Still, every now and then, a story pops up that reminds us, even seven years after the proposed ban was discarded, not everyone knows the current state of the rules.

This time around, our story comes from Times photography David Dunlap. As he relates on City Room, he was told by an MTA property protection agent that he was not permitted to take photos of a bus depot from a public sidewalk. As Dunlap notes, the agent was wrong to tell him he could not take photos from the public sidewalk and wrong to tell him he could not take photos of the MTA property.

For its part, the MTA apologized to Dunlap and said that “the actions of the property protection agent…will be investigated.” That’s a convenient after-the-fact action though. In 2012, MTA employees and those who work to keep the system safe should know that photography is allowed, and anyone with a camera, from amateurs to professionals, shouldn’t have to fear an encounter with an authority figure who isn’t versed in the current rules.

8 Responses to “Link: On improperly enforced photography laws”

  1. Marc Shepherd says:

    I suspect anyone NOT named David Dunlap would have had a lot of trouble coaxing an adknowledgment of error out of the MTA.

  2. Scott E says:

    If a ban on photography is unconstitutional on the subway, why is such a ban in place on PATH? (link to PATH Rules & Regulations). Shouldn’t the rules be the same, or did PATH get around the rules by making photography extremely difficult? (having a PATH rep accompany you, getting a permit, etc…)

    • As far as I know, no one has been arrested and charged with violating that ban so no one has yet established standing to challenge it. It’s a bit shady and deserves more treatment than I’ve given it here.

  3. Kevin Walsh says:

    I think some MTA personnel, and some cops, know the rules quite well, and continue to harass photographers because a) they don’t like people taking pictures on MTA property and b) they feel they won’t be challenged on it.

    I just wait and make sure no one else is in the area, and then I get my shots.

    • Hans Solo says:


      You shouldn’t need to act like a terrorist just to take photos. You should be able to openly take photos in the presence of the police, NYCT employees, and other subway riders. Sneaking around to take photos when you think no one is watching is suspicious and if a policeman sees you doing that, he’d have reason to investigate.

      Stay safe out there, and remember, if the police hassle you, you can sue for big $$$.

  4. BrooklynBus says:

    Anyone know if those signs on the Verrazano Bridge prohibitting photography are still there?

Leave a Reply

XHTML: You can use these tags: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <s> <strike> <strong>