Amtrak Revises Photo Policy

Union Station Interior

Union Station Interior*

In recent months, you may have read about photographers who have reported being harassed by Amtrak police/personnel, and sometimes even having their photos destroyed, while trying to work inside picturesque Union Station in DC.  Well, Photo District News just tweeted that Amtrak (in cooperation with the National Press Photographers’ Association [NPPA]) has finally revamped their photography policy and published new guidelines for everyone to follow, nationwide.  Hooray!

Best of all in my book, is the news that “[a]n important aspect of the new photo guideline says that while nothing in the new photo policy limits or expands the authority of Amtrak police to investigate what a photographer is doing, ‘the taking of photographs and/or video may not, in and of itself, rise to the level of reasonable suspicion or probable cause.'”  Many of us have seen innocent tourists get harassed around town, and it is nice to see someone acknowledge that tourists like to, you know, take pictures.

Now, Union Station (as well as many other stations and rights-of-way around the country) is operated, in part, by a private management company….which has been the source of much of the confusion inside Union Station.    And while Amtrak is trying to help us out, it looks like that confusion might continue.   Though Jones Lang LaSalle, the management company for the commercial section of the station, does have a published form to request Union Station as a film or photo production site (for movies or professional photo shoots), there’s still no stated policy about amateur photography inside the managed portion of the building….though the JLL website does contain a photo gallery.   Confusing!

As the NPPA’s counsel stated, “My only caution is that while Amtrak operates nationwide many of its stations and right-of-ways throughout the country are operated by an array of property management companies…Those companies may or may not adopt these guidelines. Unfortunately the public has no way of knowing that when all they see is the familiar Amtrak logo. I still strongly believe that regardless of the ownership public areas are considered a public forum where first amendment protections for photography would apply.”

So, shutterbugs, be on the lookout for zealous JLL security personnel when trying to shoot inside and around the station…and let us know if you notice any changes with the implementation of the new policy!

* Photo used under a Creative Commons License by flickr user morning_rumtea

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