The Chicago Transit Authority apparently does not ensure that its own employees are aware of CTA photography policy, which reads:
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.
For everyone’s safety, do not use a camera’s flash if facing a person who is operating a train or bus.
Be respectful of others – CTA customers and employees.
Don’t stand (or cause others to stand) in the way of stairs, aisles, escalators or doorways.
Be careful! Your safety is very important to us, so stay away from platform edges and moving vehicles.
Be safe! Don’t inch backward with your camera to get a wider view – always look where you’re going.
While on CTA premises, all photographers and videographers must comply with all applicable rules, including but not limited to, this policy, all applicable laws, ordinances, municipal regulations, standard operating procedures, and administrative procedures. CTA personnel may evaluate the actions of a photographer or a videographer, and if a determination is made that the actions of a photographer or videographer are not in compliance with any applicable rule, CTA personnel may terminate the permission granted by this policy.
CTA facilities and vehicles are for the exclusive use of the CTA, its employees, and its customers. Any and all permission granted to photograph and videotape in connection with this policy is subordinate to the CTA’s obligations to its customers, employees and to the general public. Loitering at CTA stations for extended periods for the purpose of taking photographs or video is prohibited.
(click here to continue reading Photography & Video Policy | CTA.)
Geoff mentioned (on Facebook) that he was told not to photograph in the El during his recent visit here:
I got hassled in Chicago because I took a photo in the subway station.
…The employee who accosted me said “We just took another tourist in the back for an hour. Please don’t make us do it again.” Do they really detain people?
I doubt very much the CTA even has a back room they use to browbeat tourists, but who would want to risk it?
This isn’t a new problem, but sadly, it keeps occurring. Olivia Leigh wrote about her experience with CTA harassment for the Chicagoist, back in 2007:
Take a quick look through Flickr, and you’ll see that the CTA is one of the most popular subjects for photographers’ lenses. Interesting architecture, intriguing people, and a nice dose of urban decay all beg to be photographed. We were similarly inspired last weekend while waiting for a brown line train at the Belmont “L” stop. After taking a photo of the view toward the end of the platform, and two snapshots of a glimpse down Belmont in between train cars, we were approached by a CTA employee who told me that us to stop taking photographs, as they were not allowed. We politely said we would stop, but we believed he was incorrect about the photography policy. His tone turned gruff quite quickly, and he said, “I know the rules. You can’t take pictures here. I work for the CTA.” We once again politely stated said that we understood, but said I did not believe that was the policy. The employee then said, “I could send you to jail for taking these pictures, so stop arguing with me!”
…We also asked Gaffney for her recommendations for photographers who encounter harassment while photographing the CTA. She replied that the “customer should ask for a supervisor or contact customer service if the employee does not know the procedures regarding photography. Additionally, if photographers “encounter an employee who is not as well versed in the policy as he or she should be…photographers should report the location, date, time and employee id # (if possible) to CTA customer service so that the employee can be retrained.” After hearing of an employee threatening to take a camera from a photographer, we asked if employees would ever have the recourse to seize cameras. Gaffney replied that employees “should not take any cameras,” and instead should notify the control center to call the police if there is “suspicious behavior” (so perhaps we could have gone to jail?).
If you think this sounds a trifle confusing, you’re not alone. While we applaud the CTA for never proposing a ban on photography, unlike some other major metropolitan transportation services, the policy is extremely vague, left to the subjective views of CTA employees who may not be properly trained on identifying suspicious behavior. Gaffney noted that people “take photographs all the time without incident”; however, the number of people who have had difficulties, nearly all of whom we would venture to guess are merely photography enthusiasts, are not insignificant.
(click here to continue reading Getting to the Bottom of the CTA Photography Policy: Chicagoist.)
The CTA system has a great attraction for photographers, both tourists, and residents. The tracks, trains, buses and stations define the city, both good and bad, and it is a shame that the CTA employees are giving the city a bad name by being jerks. For the record, I’ve taken hundreds of photos of various aspects of the CTA infrastructure and employees/passengers, and have not yet gotten more than a dirty look or two. I guess my time will come, eventually, we’ll see what happens when employees are contradicted by facts. They are not always pleased.