Subway FAQ: Photo Permit Information
This document is an attempt to summarize photo permit requirements for various transit systems. These rules pertain ONLY to individual railfans taking photos with handheld cameras; with no flashbulb or external lighting; and no tripods. This document is provided as a courtesy; if you know of changes to policy that need to be mentioned in this document please return the favor and Leave Feedback. Information about other transit agencies not listed is also appreciated.
In every case, please remember to be respectful and use common sense when taking your pictures: no trespassing, no flash in the motorman's face, leave when asked, stay out of the way of passengers, etc. Also, try to avoid taking pictures of employees without permission from the people in the picture.
PLEASE NOTE: nycsubway.org and its contributors will not be responsible if you get into trouble for not following the rules! We're also not responsible if the rules change without notice! We're also not responsible if someone "enforces" a no-photography rule in error!
THIS DOCUMENT DOES NOT PERTAIN TO PROFESSIONAL, COMMERCIAL, NEWS/PRESS PHOTO, OR MOVIE SHOOTS!
Transit Operators Explicitly Allowing Photography
Amtrak Corporate Guidelines on Photography and Video Recording states: The taking of photographs and/or videos is permitted within public access areas on Amtrak property and as otherwise stated in Section III. In emergency and/or special circumstances (for example, declared elevation of Homeland Security Advisory System to High or Severe - orange and red) and where actions are deemed suspicious or inconsistent with this policy by observing/reporting persons, photographers and videographers may be approached and questioned to determine if further investigation or action is necessary. Photography and video recording within restricted areas are prohibited. Individuals found in a restricted area will be subject to investigation and possible arrest and seizure of photography and/or video recording equipment may occur pursuant to the arrest. This policy applies in all circumstances, including where Amtrak may be promoting a photography contest or event.
Boston MBTA Transit Police FAQ states: Q: Do I need a permit to take pictures on the MBTA? A: A permit is not required to take pictures on the MBTA if it is for non-commercial use. For commercial-use photography on the MBTA, please contact: email@example.com
Chicago CTA Photo & Video Policy 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).
Greater Cleveland RTA email from customer service rep: RTA does not have any policy about photography on our system. You are more than welcome to take pictures as long if it does not interfere with our drivers operating the bus or train.
Los Angeles MTA Code of Conduct (PDF) states: Code of Conduct section 6-05-180 part C. A person may photograph, film, record, or sketch a Metro facility or vehicle for non-commercial purposes only in public areas.. and at a place that does not interfere with Metro operations, or create an unreasonable risk to the safety of Metro representatives or patrons Usual verbage about no tripod and flash apply.
Maryland MTA Filming and Photography on MTA (i.e. Baltimore subway and light rail lines, MARC, etc.) states: We welcome filming and photography on most MTA property that is open to the public, including local bus, light rail, Metro Subway, Commuter Bus and MARC. This includes photography and filming for personal, non-commercial use that does not interfere with operations or safety. However, some activities require prior notice, a permit and insurance.
Miami Metrorail: Here is what Miami-Dade County Code 30B-5 (2) states: Commercial photography or recording. No person, unless authorized in writing by MDTA or the County Manager when appropriate under Section 2-11.14 of this Code, shall take still, motion, or sound motion pictures or sound records or recordings of voices or otherwise for commercial, training or educational purposes, other than news coverage anywhere in the transit system. Miami-Dade County Ordinance Sec. 2-11.14 (2) (iii): Nothing in this section shall require any permit from: (i) Individuals filming or video taping only for their own personal or family use; (ii) Employees of print or electronic news media when filming on-going news events. This exception shall not apply to simulations or re-enactments orchestrated by print or electronic news media; or (iii) Students and faculty filming exclusively for educational purposes. An earlier inquiry had this additional response: MDT also requires permitting for photography when it involves equipment other than a hand-held camera (i.e. tripods, cables/wires, screens, etc.), which could pose a potential safety hazard to other patrons. Although not prohibited, security personnel and/or any MDT employee are encouraged to inquire as to what objects/images a patron is photographing. This is done not with the intent of harassing patrons or station occupants, but rather as a means of ensuring the security of our infrastructure and the general public and ensuring that commercial activity is not being performed.
New Jersey Transit: Quote from a letter from George Warrington, Executive Director of NJ Transit, dated 12/30/2005: Effective immediately, we will return to our historic practice, which enables hobbyists and other non-commercial photographers to take pictures in public areas throughout the NJ Transit system without obtaining permission or providing prior notice. There will also continue to be no restrictions on journalists in public areas of the system. HOWEVER -- It is unlikely that police and staff will cease investigating photographers so beware!
New Orleans RTA Photo and Video Policy states: Here at the New Orleans RTA, we are proud of our city and our transit system. You are welcome to take pictures and video of the system and of the sights you see when riding it. We ask that you use compact, handheld cameras when you’re taking pictures or video, because large equipment can bother other riders and create safety issues. We also ask that you restrict your filming to only the public areas of the RTA system.
New York City MTA Long Island Rail Road, MTA Metro-North Railroad, MTA Staten Island Railroad: Thanks to the efforts of rail photographer/historian Bob Andersen and the New York Civil Liberties Union, there is documentation available that clearly indicates that these MTA operations have no photography bans in place. A collection of the correspondence is available on Bob Andersen's LIRR History web site here.
New York City Transit Rules of Conduct states: Section 1050.9. Restricted areas and activities. (3) Photography, filming or video recording in any facility or conveyance is permitted except that ancillary equipment such as lights, reflectors or tripods may not be used. Members of the press holding valid identification issued by the New York City Police Department are hereby authorized to use necessary ancillary equipment. All photographic activity must be conducted in accordance with the provisions of this Part. However, the same regulations allow this rule to be overridden. For instance, 21 NYCRR 1050.6 ("Use of the transit system") prohibits commercial activity (paragraph b), and nontransit use of facilities (paragraph c); where nontransit use is broadly defined as "non commercial activities that are not directly related to the use of a facility or conveyance for transportation purposes". A police officer could also determine that the act of photography violates other statutes, like 1050.9g, "no person may carry or bring to any facility any item that constitutes a hazard to operation or interferes with passenger traffic". Based on the wording of the statutes, it is possible that photography could still be a violation. As long as you're not trespassing or constituting a hazard to operation, etc. you should be fine.
Philadelphia PATCO Photography, Filming & Video Policy states: Non-Commercial/Personal. 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.).
Philadelphia SEPTA Photography & Filming Guidelines states: Personal Photography. SEPTA welcomes amateur photographers and artists - many of whom capture their visits in photographs or in sketch books. In return, we simply request they use common sense and courtesy to others in pursuit of photo and short videos for their personal use. In 2008, in response to an inquiry, John Casey, head of SEPTA, stated non commercial photography is indeed permitted on SEPTA property and a permit is only needed if the photos are for commercial use; but also states that police will question photographers to determine their intent.
San Francisco BART Permits for Film, Video and Photos states: WHEN A PERMIT IS NOT REQUIRED: BART is a Bay Area icon. As such, it attracts more than a few amateur photographers. 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, involved in a commercial activity or harassing other riders. If, however, you appear to be taking photographs of potentially sensitive areas or obviously involved in some commercial enterprise like an advertising agency, BART employees, especially BART Police Officers, may approach you and ask you to identify yourself and possibly take further action against you.
San Francisco MUNI Photography and Videography Guidelines states: Non-commercial Photography and Videography. The general public is permitted to use personal, handheld photography and videography equipment on all Muni in-service transit vehicles and on publicly-accessible SFMTA property, including Muni stations, as long as such activities do not interfere with transit operations.
St. Louis Metro Filming & Photography states: Metro permits the general public to use hand-held cameras to take photographs, film, or video within public areas of Metro stations, transit centers, and transit vehicles for personal and non-commercial use. Photographing and filming video on the Metro System is permitted with the following limitations: Photographers and videographers who wish to take photos, film, or video for commercial use, or who need to set up tripods, lighting, or other equipment on Metro property may be required to sign a permit and provide a certificate of insurance 7-10 business days prior to the proposed shoot. For approval, call 314-982-1440 or e-mail: PhotographyFilmingRequest@metrostlouis.org.
Stockholm Tunnelbana Terms and Conditions states: Filming or photography is allowed for private use but commercial purpose requires written permission. Sale implies that SL has given written permission. (Translated from Swedish: "Filmning eller fotografering är tillåtet för privat bruk men i kommersiellt syfte krävs skriftligt tillstånd. Försäljning förutsätter att SL givit skriftligt tillstånd.")
WMATA Filming Regulations for Non-News Media Requests pertains to professional film and photography shoots. Nothing found on their web site about amateur/railfan photography. First-hand experience and second-hand reports suggest Transit Police and/or Metro employees might approach you to find out what you're doing and remind you not to take photos of "sensitive areas", no flash and the usual reminders. Be prepared to show photo ID. In 2006, we received this in response to our query: Permits are not required. Tourists come in and take photos all the time. Snapshots are fine with us. No tripods. No exceptions. It relates to insurance issues. If someone trips on your tripod, we don't want them to sue us, so no tripods. The other thing: stay away from the platform edge for your own safety. We don't want anyone falling in and getting hurt--or worse. Questions to: Office of Media Relations, 2G-04, Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority, 600 Fifth Street, NW, Washington, DC 20001.
Transit Operators With Particularly Confusing Photography Policies
Atlanta MARTA Photography and Film Policy applies only to commercial film and photography; no amateur/railfan policy was found. In 8/2006 this appeared on the MARTA web site: Any request for photography on the MARTA system must be approved by the MARTA Communications Office. Anyone taking photographs on the MARTA system or property without prior consent will be asked by MARTA police or customer service representatives to discontinue the activity and contact the Communications Office for further information. The Communications Office will provide interested parties with information on the Authority's photography guidelines and approval process. The guidelines also "prohibit" photos from being posted on the Internet. An email inquiry had this reponse: "It is not illegal to photograph MARTA" and that the policy is geared more toward professional film shoots. Expect that police or MARTA employees will discourage photography of the system.
Transit Operators Neither Allowing nor Prohibiting Photography
DART (Dallas) Code of Conduct does not prohibit photography but does not specifically allow it, either. However, signs are posted that permission is required to take photos in the Cityplace/Uptown subway station.
Transit Operators Prohibiting Photography
London Underground Guide to filming states: Permits. Any individual or film production company wanting to film or take photographs on the Tube must seek prior permission from the London Underground (LU) Film Office. There are three types of permit: Student or non-professional / 2 for 1 (Monday to Friday and between 10:00 - 15:30) / Location. All permit requests must be made in writing, preferably via one of our application forms. Conditions of Carriage (PDF) states: Section 4.5.1 For safety reasons, on our buses and Underground trains and in our bus and Underground stations you must not: ... take flash photographs and/or use a tripod or other camera support equipment. Jury is out whether amateur/railfan photos are permitted or not but buzz on the web suggests that the policy really is "every piece of film or photography must be authorised."
PATH (Port Authority of New York and New Jersey) Rules & Regulations states: Section IX. Photography and similar activity. The taking or making of photographs of any portion of the PATH system is prohibited except as provided herein. ... No person may take a photograph of any portion of the PATH system unless he or she is accompanied by a representative of PATH. ... No person may take any photograph within PATH unless he or she has been issued a permit therefore by PATH as set forth herein. And this is vigorously enforced.