Archive for the ‘Union Station’ Category

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

Holiday giving dilemma

A great place to shop, or get on a train and visit your mom instead.

Union Station: A great place to shop. Or spend your money on a train to visit your mom instead.

Today brought snow flurries and a chill north wind, and it’s really beginning to feel a lot like that old Holiday gift giving season.  However, with the wholesale rejection of the outgoing administration’s admonition to go shopping, and with belts tightening, a lot of us are wondering just how this is going to work.

While there is an upcoming sales tax holiday (and the markdowns are just going to get better and better), my family is looking at this an opportunity to do some housecleaning.  I’m embracing Freecycle, with e-groups across the region.  I also recommend the “free” listings on craigslist because who doesn’t love a curb alert?  Help out a neighbor–and give yourself the gift of less clutter. 

Finally, giving of oneself is the ultimate in generosity.  Check out these opportunities, consider something more vampiric, or you can even barter your volunteer time for fun and profit.

Happy holidays?

Photo credit to zizzybaloobah on Flickr.


BigOreo.jpg OreoGuy.jpg

There’s a gigantic Oreo cakester standing in front of Union Station right now, with sparkly birthday candles sticking out of it to celebrate Oreo’s 95th year. In its shadow, Oreo Guy is giving out high-fives. Please do not try to eat either of these.

New Victims of Communism Memorial attracts clergy, segways


On Wednesday, President Bush blocked traffic for a while to dedicate DC’s latest memorial. This one is for Victims of Communism. The statue is a replica of the one they used in Tiananmen Square. As memorials go, it’s not too bad, it’s relatively classy and it doesn’t dominate the skyline like DC’s last memorial, the gargantuanly hideous Air Force Memorial. It’s also nice to see a memorial dedicated to peace and not war or hubris (like a lot of other monuments in DC). You can find it at the intersection of Mass Ave, New Jersey Ave, and G St, a couple of blocks from Union Station. I can only assume they picked that location because it offers a great backdrop of a burned out, abandoned building to remind us of how destitute Communist economies can be (see second photo). The statue is also staring directly at Georgetown Law School, probably to represent how Victims of Communism can look to the laws of the United States for protection from being tortured and/or being held in secret prisons with no charges.

A Wall Goes Down

Wall Gone

By the Metro escalators at the Union Station 1st St NE entrance, for several months now, a large enclosure of wood panels has blocked the gap between the escalators and the entrance to Amtrak HQ. This week I noticed that the walls are finally gone, and once again foot traffic is free to pass through the gap to get to the down-bound Metro escalator without squeezing in with the opposing traffic on the other side of the entrance.

What I’m wondering is, why was that area closed off for so long? Call me unobservant, but I really don’t see much visible change in the floor or walls which were walled up, other than a shinier floor and some duct tape over the grout. Surely all that work wasn’t just to lay down some wiring and polish the granite? Union Station Metro-goers, what do you think?

Shots Fired at Union Station

Union Station Arches Why all the police cars, I wondered to myself as I emerged from the Union Station Metro last night. Someone’s gone and done something stupid. Sure enough: Teen Injured, Two Arrested In Shooting at Union Station. This report from Officer Diane Groomes on the MPD-1D mailing list:

1d units called to Union Station by Amtrak pd tonite at approximately 1800 hours – report of juveniles fighting near bakery area – the argument became physical and spilled out on 1st St NE side — the group continued to fight and gunshots rang out – one teenager struck by gunfire and taken to Hospital – officers chased subjects -so far two apprehensions and gun recovery — victim at hospital in critical condition

By the time I arrived, I’d missed the action by about an hour. According to witnesses the boy had been shot multiple times in the head, but managed to drag himself to Corner Bakery to ask for help, while the shooter and his girlfriend had run down E Street, where they were apprehended and arrested for assault. They gave their address as the shelter at 2nd and D Streets NW, which would be CCNV.

Tip to would-be gun happy perps at Union Station: Don’t. Really. It’s so heavily policed they’ll be on you before you can say Mooninite, especially at that specific corner, which almost always has a patrol car on watch to moderate the hordes of after-school teens who used to conglomerate there and occasionally harass tourists and other passers-by.

An eloquent differing view from DC CL RNR.

Humbug: DC Christmas attractions

This year, my wife and I stayed home for Christmas day. After exchanging gifts, we headed over the Ellipse in the hope of walking around the Pagent of Peace before the forecasted rain. Unfortunately, our hopes were dashed when we arrived to discover the gate was not going to be opened until noon. That is not unreasonable, park rangers deserve to have Christmas morning too, but it would not have hurt to have the lights on.

We then headed to Union Station to take in the 10th Annual Norwegian Christmas. It was beautiful of course, but the model train wasn’t running. We held out until noon hoping it would be turned on, but no such luck. For the $6 we paid to park, I would have liked to have seen the train in action. I guess expecting Christmas attractions to be available in all their glory on Christmas day is too much.

Union Station Christmas tree lighting

For the tenth consecutive year Union Station is hosting the Royal Norwegian Embassy’s Norweigan Christmas. Tonight, the Christmas tree gets lit at 6 p.m.:

Renowned actor, Earle Hyman, will flip the switch to light the 8,000 lights on the tree. The 80 year old actor is best known for his role as Bill Cosby’s father, Russell Huxtable, on “The Cosby Show,” but is also a distinguished stage actor. He taught himself Norwegian so that he could read Henrik Ibsen’s plays in the original language. The ceremony includes choral song and appearance by Ambassador of Norway, Knut Vollebaek.

Source: Norwegian Embassy Press Release

The model train that “winds its way through the mountains and fjords of Norway” has been running for a week now. There is also a life size ice carving of a polar bear today too.

Even if you can’t make it up tonight, it’s worth a trip to see Union Station all decked out for the holidays. The decorations beautifully complement the station. Thank goodness those who wanted to tear down this Beaux-Arts marvel failed.

AMTRAK: underachiever

First, let me say that I’m predisposed to be an Amtrak fan. I don’t mind taking a few extra minutes in transit in exchange for: 1) comfort and 2) less hassle. For the trip from DC to NYC, for instance – there’s almost no question for me. The Acela in particular is really a treat. About 20 minutes faster than the Metroliner, with *much* cleaner & updated cars – I’m a believer.

But I have to say that with all those things going for it – Amtrak can really suck. The Acela is oft like the really smart second grader for whom teachers have visions of greatness – only to learn that he’s far more interested in smoking pot and wasting space than actually living up to his potential.

Over just the past couple trips back and forth – I’ve had cancelled trains, *switched* trains, and delayed trains. All things that demand a trip or call to customer service…if only I had the tiniest shred of confidence in *that* process. Sigh. I do hope they grow up a bit. They could be so much better.

DC interstate exhibit


On Sunday, my wife and I checked out The Interstate in the District of Columbia exhibit at Union Station. It runs through next Sunday.

The story of D.C. interstates were told mostly by photographs. Each of the interstate highways to enter the city, I-66, I-295 I-95/495, I-395 (orginally I-95) had its own section. Many of the photographs included were of the original construction. There was also a corresponding interstate marker for each road, although the I-66 and I-95 shields were the size of three digit interstate shields and had the wrong font for the numbers, something that only a hardcore road geek like myself would likely notice.

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