Photo Rules

By city/metro area/agency
Please Send me updates for these and other cities

Photoshop by Don Huber, Long Island

The JoeKorNer is NOT responsible for any loss due to errors on any of the following links, nor changes to the rules as indicated.

Updated information is marked in yellow background for each system as information becomes avaialble

New York City Metro Area


The official TA and MTA policy ALLOWS photography in public places.
During 2004 and 2005 the policy was in jeopardy, but sane heads prevailed.

Here is a link to letters to and from the MTA pertaining to the photo policies on the LIRR and MNCR. It's in PDF format This one also from the LIRR History web site includes an internal memo from the MTA Chief of Police.
The following rules pages have NO statements one way or another about photography: Metro-North - LIRR.
The SIRT permits phtography - section 1040.4e3f.

New York Post Article telling NYPD officers "Photography and the videotaping of public places, buildings and structures are common activities within New York City . . . and is rarely unlawful"
The department directive -- titled "Investigation of Individuals Engaged in Suspicious Photography and Video Surveillance" -- makes it clear that cops cannot "demand to view photographs taken by a person . . . or direct them to delete or destroy images" in a camera.
October 21, 2009 on the Brighton Line

Not a photo rule, but somewhat related for visitor to NYC who want to see the closed City Hall Station.

The full MTA/NYCT Rules of Conduct. Search for Section 1059.9 or Photography.

NYPD Operations Order

The 2009 NYPD Operations Order about allowing photgraphy in NYC. Section 3 pertains to the NYCTA and MTA railroads.

Judge's Decision-2013

Photographers do NOT need to carry ID on Subway


As of 12/30/2005 NJT no longer requires a permit for photography.
Michael Finfer received a letter from NJT saying that the permit and call in requirement for non-commercial photography has been cancelled.
Jan 14, 2006 article from the Asbury Park Press.
Some interesting things about the permit policy


The PATH photo policy is ridiculous (from the link, search for the text 'photo').
You must apply for a permit at the office of the Permit Administrator between 9:00AM and 10:30AM or 1:30PM - 3:30PM. But they don't say where the administrator is located. Then it requires the photographer to get an escort from PATH. Even with an permit, an escort is required. The escort may veto any photo sites for security reasons.
Don't look at this photo.

Newark, NJ

Newark Post online Article


There was a case late in 2008 where a railfan was arrested for taking photographs in Penn Station NY. I came across this document that tells the NPPA that it's OK to take photos on AMTRAK.
AMTRAK Photo/Video Policy - 2013

Legal Opinions


The National Press Photographers Association has information and a legal opinion about taking photograhs in public places. Although this is geared to members of the press, it does stress the public's right to take photos in public places.

Civil Liberties Union

The American Civil Liberties Union of Massachusetts has threatened to sue the MBTA over its unwritten policy limiting photographs on T property, saying the practice is a violation of the First Amendment and state constitution.
Several amateur photographers said they had recently been prohibited from taking photographs of the T from public property or while lawfully traveling on the system.
MBTA officials acknowledge that the T has no written policy on photography on the T system.
Know Your Rights: Photographers
Taking photographs of things that are plainly visible from public spaces is a constitutional right – and that includes federal buildings, transportation facilities, and police and other government officials carrying out their duties. Unfortunately, there is a widespread, continuing pattern of law enforcement officers ordering people to stop taking photographs from public places, and harassing, detaining and arresting those who fail to comply.

Bert P. Krages II Attorney at Law

The Photographers' Right Your Rights and Remedies When Stopped or Confronted for Photography. Updated to November 2006.

For UK photographers

Know Your Rights as a Photographer

Please note that these rules apply only to UK photographers, so if you reside in another country you’ll want to check your local laws and regulations.

Bruce Schneier's BLOG

Interesting observations about photography and terrorism

Colbert Nation

Comedy Central:
Nailed 'Em - Amtrak Photographer Amtrak police arrest a man because he's taking pictures for their photography contest.

California Ruling

The city of Los Angeles has to pay $50K to photographers for being detained for taking photos from public property..



AMTRAK, together with the NPPA worked out guidelines for police and employees for ealing with photgraphers.
Key statements are:
It is the policy of Amtrak that the taking of photographs and/or videos is permitted within public access areas on Amtrak property.
Under no circumstances will officers delete, destroy or alter photographs/videos; nor shall they request that photographs/video be deleted, destroyed or altered.

Washington Union Station

Bruce Schneier's BLOG on Washington Union Station:
Security stupidity Because of "security concerns", tourists and amateur photographers visiting the Amtrak Union Station in Washington DC are told they can't take pictures. A local TV news team went to investigate this story. The best part of their video was when a security guard came up to the camera crew and told them there was no photography allowed, right as the chief Amtrak spokesman was telling the reporter that there was no ban whatsoever on photography.

Mainline Railroads


The BNSF is recruiting railfans to help keep BNSF properties safe by reporting suspicious activities and to help prevent possible security breaches. Here is the registration form: BNSF. Looks like a way to track railfans.
Here is the full online article.

I can hear it now:

Railfan: 'Hello BNSF, this is a railfan.'
BNSF: 'Hello RF, what's up?'
RF: 'There's a person here in Montana taking pictures.'
BNSF: 'Can you describe the person?'
RF:' Wait, let me get a mirror.'
BNSF: 'A mirror?'
RF: ' So I can tell you what I look like!'

Then there's the stupidity of non railfans:

JACKSON, Miss. — Helen Gable was taking pictures on the railroad tracks in Tupelo in 2006 when a train nearly cut off her leg as she tried to get out of the way. Gable and her husband are suing the railroad company for nearly $6 million.

Gable says the company should have posted trespassing signs to keep people away. The lawsuit also claims the train was exceeding federal speed limits and that a cable was hanging off the side and cut her.

BNSF Railway Company spokeswoman Suann Lundsberg said the company is investigating and is sympathetic to Gable's injuries, but "she admits in her lawsuit filing that she was trespassing" to take photos on the track. Lundsberg also said BNSF has equipment that detects if something is hanging or dragging from a train.

Union Pacific - Chicago

From August 16, 2006 CHICAGO -

Union Pacific Railroad has announced that with the recent increase in security concerns across the United States, it will no longer allow photography of trains from Metra station platforms in the Chicago area. Metra is the region's commuter-train agency.
"We recognize that railroad fans can be our eyes and ears out there," said UP spokesman Mark Davis. "But we live in different times. The number one concern for Union Pacific is the safety of everyone. Right now, and since 9/11, security has been heightened and increased. This is part of that effort." Davis added that, "This stuff about UP not liking railfans is not true. But we have to be as safe and secure as we can."
Metra was pulled into the photography-rights controversy last year when two railroad fans were detained by Morton Grove, Ill., municipal police and Metra police while photographing trains from the public train-boarding platforms at town's Metra station. That route, the Milwaukee District North Line, is owned by Metra. Union Pacific owns the property on its three commuter routes, and UP employees operate the trains under contract to Metra.
After the glare of publicity enveloped the Motron Grove incident, Metra recanted its position and publicly reversed its stance, saying it would allow photography of trains from its stations.
Metra spokesman Tom Miller today told Trains News Wire that as long as people are in areas accessible to the public, are acting in a safe manner, and are willing to provide identification if asked by authorities, that Metra has no problem with them taking photos. "But as far as the UP policy, we have no comment on that," Miller said.
More in the October issue of TRAINS Magazine.


Please Send me updates for these and other cities
Back to top of this page and NYC metro




Atlanata - MARTA

While the MARTA web site pertaining to photography/filming does not mention hobby photogaraphy, it does include student projects. It is unclear as to what happens where a hobbyist falls in these rules.
It still requires a writen photo permit and may require an escort and a $250 per hour fee to cover the cost of the escort.

From the web page:
Photography & Film Policy Requirements For Filming Or Commercial Photography On MARTA Property Any use of MARTA property for commercial photography or filming of commercials, television shows, short features, student projects, feature films, or any other filming requires a signed license agreemeNews;events. ...



It may not be as bad now (2009), an internet friend did some photography in Baltimore recently and said that no one bothered him and he took some photos right in front of some train crews. But the below borchure is current.

Suspicious activity by people in the system is based solely on where they are and what they are doing. Suspicious activity includes:
• someone loitering, staring at or watching employees and customers;
• those that appear nervous or jumpy, are sweating, pacing or dressed in bulky clothes or clothes inappropriate for the season;
those that are taking photographs of equipment or infrastructure;...
Are they Kidding? I guess not.
Update from serch June 3, 2011:

After some research surrounding a Pennsylvania railfan stopped by Baltimore MTA police, the Official MTA Policy was located. It's OK

Do I need a permit?
No permit required: A permit is not required for non-commercial, personal-use filming or photography by the general public that does not interfere with transit operations or safety.



Commercial photography requires a permit ($250 plus expenses),
If you are a paying passenger making your way from point A to point B, then there is no specific prohibition to taking photographs in areas that are accessible to the public provided you do not appear to be a security threat (don't look like a foamer?), involved in a commercial activity (no high paid, beautiful models?)or harassing other riders (don't ask people to get out of the picture?).
BART Photo Permits



Boston - MBTA
2012 Update

Some new information about Boston's system. It appears that in the commonwealth, it's OK to take photos on public property, but within the MBTA, a police officer may ask you for ID.

The latest official photo policy is posted on the web.



2010 update

Posted on CTA trains

Call 911 if you see someone taking . . . excessive photographs. Whatever excessive means.

CTA Photography Policy:
The general public is allowed to take snapshots in public areas. Equipment such as lighting, tripods, cables, etc. is not allowed - except in instances where commercial and professional photographers enter into contractual agreements with CTA. Photographers are not allowed to enter or photograph non-public areas of CTA stations. Photographers are prohibited from obstructing transit operations, interfering with customers and blocking doors or stairs. CTA personnel may evaluate the actions of photographers on a case by case basis to determine if a photographer is in compliance with guidelines. If a determination is made that the photographer is not in compliance, CTA personnel may ask them to stop.



2010 update

SEPTA has removed the restirctions listed below. However:

While this unfortunate reality has not resulted in a prohibition of photography, SEPTA Transit Police and other law enforcement are under orders to question anyone taking photographs or sketching transit facilities.

In April 2009, SEPTA has implemented a new $10, Independence Pass all day fare card for unlimited rides aon all lines, including the commuter rail.

From an e-mail in response to my inquiry:
Contact :
Sylvana Hoyos
SEPTA Media Relations
1234 Market Street,
10th Floor Philadelphia, PA 19107
0ffice 215.580.8367 - Fax 215.580.7534
You should include dates and locations in the e-mail and they also want a photo ID. I attached a copy of my NJT photo permit from a few years back.
However, they won't return the waiver by e-mail or snail mail (even if you send a self addressed stamped envelope).
They'll fax it to you or you have to pick it up in person.
Let's inundate them with requests and visits.
Oh, and you can't take photos of the insides of trains!
According to the waiver, photos of YOU taken under the waiver belong to SEPTA! and can be used by them. It says nothing about the photos you take.


Photographers and artists are welcome on the DRPA/PATCO facilities and are expected to be courteous and to use good judgment while photographing or sketching. Recent security concerns regarding all public transportation facilities required a tightening of security procedures in and around the DRPA/PATCO system. The reality of the times has not resulted in a prohibition of photography and members of the public still have the right to take pictures. However, DRPA/PATCO police and other law enforcement officers working under the guideline recommendations of the Federal and State Office of Homeland Security may question persons photographing and sketching transit systems as to their intent (commercial, artistic, hobby, etc.).

San Francisco, CA


Photography Guidelines

Washington, DC


From their auto-response to an e-mail request:
Metro would like to remind you that customers play an important role in keeping our system safe. Please remember to be watchful for . . .
*Unusual persons or activities
*Unattended bags, packages, boxes, backpacks, etc.
*Persons photographing, sketching or documenting activity at or around Metro stations...

However, Section 100.8 Filming and Photography says:
(2) 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.
  How to Make an Online Portfolio How to Make an Online Portfolio by Robert Mening

The Brighton Line 10/21/2009

The Brighton line began major rehabilitation of the local stations between Newkirk and Kings Highway in September 2009. On October 21, I went out to document the track and station chagnes.

I overheard one of the employees saying on his phone that there was someone taking photos on the platform. I walked over to him and he asked me what I was doing. I told him I was taking pictures and showed him the TA Web page that says it's OK to take photos. After brief discussion, where he insisted that I needed a TA escort, I suggested he call the police and that I'd be at Kings Highway for another 30 minutes or so. From there I'd be at Ave J then Newkirk. A few minutes later, a police officer met me. I show him the web page, but before he read it, he said that he knew it was OK to take photos. I spoke with him for about 10 minutes and we shook hands and went our separate ways.

I got half way down the platform and two plain clothes officers (badge on neck chain) spoke to me. I showed them the web page and said I had already talked to a uniformed officer. As we were talking the original PO and a second uniform met us. One of the plain clothes guys jokingly asked me to raise my right hand swear I wasn't a terrorist. I told him I even shaved today so as to not look like one.

The rest of the day was uneventful.

Back to the Brighton Photos

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Monday February 5, 2018
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