lightboxdc 8:10pm, 31 March 2008
I just had an unfriendly chat with an Amtrak staff member at Union Station. As I was walking through the station, directly in front of me, the staffer barked at a young woman for taking a photo of her friends near the arrival/departure gates. I tried to politely ask the staffer about the rules:

Me: "Excuse me, but I read on Amtrak's website that photograph..."
[Interrupted angrily]
Amtrak Staffer: "SIR! No photos in Amtrak stations!"
Me: "But as I was trying to say, on Amtrak's website, the policy says..."
Amtrak Staffer: "SIR! I don't care what you are saying, Amtrak police will tell you, and I am telling you, no photos."
[I'm not sure when barking the word SIR became a coupon to interrupt someone, but c'est la vie.]
Me: "May I finish one sentence please?"
Amtrak Staffer: "Listen, I don't care what..."

And so on.

I had just picked up my mother, so I didn't have time to engage further, much less get her contact info., but I feel we should pursue this. Below is what I found from Amtrak's own website, and also from the property management company for the retail sections of Union Station. The only language regarding photography applies to media or commercial crews, with not a word prohibiting other photography. I'll probably write them both later this week:


"Important Note: Permission for news reporting and professional photography on Amtrak trains, at stations or on other Amtrak property must be obtained in advance from Amtrak Media Relations. Reporters and photographers should contact the media relations office in their region. After-hours emergency contact information is provided at all hours by calling any of the three offices."

Washington Office
(202) 906-3860

JONES LANG LASALLE [Property Management Company] WEBSITE:

"Photo / Film Authorization

"Thank you for your interest in filming or photographing at Union Station. Over the years we have worked with various major motion pictures (including Hannibal, Wedding Crashers), television shows (including Chicago Hope, West Wing, K Street, MTV/VH1), independent films, student organizations, and a wide range of still work projects. If you are interested in utilizing Union Station as a production site, please fill out this application and return it to our office for prior authorization."
miscelena PRO 10 years ago
Sounds like this thread might be relevant, too?
erin m 10 years ago
of for the love of god...

when I spoke with union station management earlier this year, they singled out Amtrak areas as THE ONLY PLACE IN THE BUILDING where photography is allowed.
lightboxdc 10 years ago
Excellent thread; thx, Miscelena. I guess we need Amtrak and the property management company to simply edit their language on their websites, to make it all very clear.
erin m 10 years ago
Screw the Web site edit, I'd just be happy if Amtrak and Union Station properly enforced and understood their own policies.
Photos by Chip Py Posted 10 years ago. Edited by Photos by Chip Py (member) 10 years ago
I agree with Erin. Silver Spring now has a policy that allows 1st Amendment type activity on Ellsworth Drive but their onsite staff knows nothing of it and continues to stop people from exercising their rights. I think one thing that we have learned on this group and on the street is that Security people make this stuff up. Gives em something to do. Elevates their "Control Jones".

The question here needs to be
1) who owns Union Station??
2) Is it considered public space.

Im not sure, but I think it is owned by the city.Perhaps the federal government. That would give us more clout in dealing with this other than just talking to management company tools.Politicians tend to listen to things like this.

Let's find this out and then plan next steps. I'd be up for another photo walk!!!

Chip Py
Silver Spring.
erin m Posted 10 years ago. Edited by erin m (admin) 10 years ago
Last time around, after I first got some answers from the Union Station property manager, I replied back with a more detailed list of questions. Basically, they sent me their statement and I poked a few holes in it. That was six weeks ago, and the woman I'd been chatting with never got back to me. (Anyone else want to try? Her name Is Joan, and you can e-mail her at

Since this thread was posted this afternoon, I've sent her yet another message, and I also e-mailed the Amtrak customer service people. Their polite little reply told me I'd have to wait up to four weeks for someone to receive and respond to my query.

Oh, and possibly the best part? Nosing around on the Amtrak site didn't get me their photo policy, but I DID find links to photo contests they sponsor. The subject of these contests? Amtrak trains and stations.
Alt.Frames 10 years ago
This is directly from the Amtrak website on the topic of their photo contest:

"...Photographers must not trespass on railroad property or on private property adjacent to the railroad. Instead, stay in public access areas, such as stations, sidewalks or parking lots...."

I'd laugh if this weren't so pathetic...
Alt.Frames 10 years ago
Actually, print out this page as some kind of evidence.

But as Chip says, it may not quell their "Control Jones"...
miscelena PRO 10 years ago
*sigh* Folks, let's please remember that yes, SOME guards have a "control jones" and their little brain pleasure centers are activated by bossing people around (and yes, I assume anyone who barks at people is in that category... ) but there are ALSO some serious guards who truly believe they're protecting the public and are simply misguided about the legality of the situation.

Assuming that there's an 'us vs. them' and that "they" are just out to restrict our rights isn't really productive. The goal, IMHO, should be to educate everyone involved about the actual issues happening here, including everyone HERE recognizing the psychological effects of being the first line of defense when it comes to potential terrorist targets. It's not a job I'd want - how about you? And if you did have it, would you want a bunch of photogs walking in and causing a scene just to make a point about freedoms? Would that make you 'see the light'?

I agree that the proper approach is to take the situations to authorities; discuss the events that happen with Amtrak management, not the guard in the terminal... and as Chip suggested, writing to the relevant political powers that be in the area is likely to help promote understanding of all views as well.

However - showing up en-masse to press a point is not so likely to be effective today as it was four decades ago... we are, after all, all on the side of preventing terrorism, I assume? While I don't think the threat-level should restrict our freedoms, I also think it's worth noting that (on that issue) we are all on the same side, and we gain nothing by making that job pointedly harder for the authorities.

Protests at a shopping mall are one thing - at a transportation center, it's something else entirely. IMO.
Alt.Frames 10 years ago
Protests? What protests? I'm just saying that one could print out Amtrak's own admission that photography is encouraged! Wouldn't Management want to see such a thing? I think so...
erin m Posted 10 years ago. Edited by erin m (admin) 10 years ago
I'd also like to point out that Union Station is, in fact, a shopping mall.

Whether it's Union Station or the National Mall, I've run into one single problem lately, and that's a lack of top-down instruction. Sure, the guards on the front line may honestly think they're doing right, but the fact is that they *aren't*. Their jobs would be lot easier if their bosses would set clear and sensible rules for photography and then actually take the steps to educate employees.

The rules themselves are another matter, and I've had absolutely no luck getting managers to discuss the rules. I've tried e-mailing Amtrak and Union Station, and it took five days of phone tag to get a single response from the National Park Service. I wish others better luck than I have had.

National Park Service employees are given once-a-year instruction in the photography policies, but that doesn't mean their no-tripod rule makes any sense. And Union Station may have just sent all their guards out with the photo policy in their pockets (as the manager told me she was hoping to do), but that doesn't mean it's fair to force me to put my camera away the minute I walk from the Metro part of the station to the shopping area and then allow me to take it back out again once I've passed into Amtrak territory.
miscelena PRO Posted 10 years ago. Edited by miscelena (member) 10 years ago
:::Protests? What protests?:::

*grin* Have you looked through the photos in the pool? The last time Chip suggested a photowalk, it turned into a bit of a circus, completely with graffiti and a guy on a unicycle. Appropriate for an outside mall (though I think the graffiti was going a bit too far) but not for a train station. IMO... and my opinion only.

:::that doesn't mean it's fair to force me to put my camera away the minute I walk from the Metro part of the station to the shopping area and then allow me to take it back out again once I've passed into Amtrak territory. :::

Why not? The mall area is privately owned/managed, yes? Separate from the other (public) areas? Not allowing photography in a shopping mall is standard practice, and has nothing to do with 'rights'.
miscelena PRO 10 years ago
::::Their jobs would be lot easier if their bosses would set clear and sensible rules for photography and then actually take the steps to educate employees. ::::

Agreed. There's a definite need for everyone who runs into a problem to consistently notify the management - until they know there's an ongoing issue, rather than isolated events, they may not make it a priority to alter the training.
erin m Posted 10 years ago. Edited by erin m (admin) 10 years ago
The mall area is privately run, but it's in a very public building leased for the purposes of a mall. Much like the Silver Spring issue, the question is whether the DC and/or federal governement also signed away our First Amendment rights when they were shopping for someone to develop and save the building from ruin back in the 1980s.

edit: and there are no other (public) areas in the building. As far as the mall management are concerned, there are two parts to Union Station: Amtrak, and mall. That beautiful Beaux-Arts great hall designed by Daniel Burnham? Part of the mall and therefore not allowed to be photographed, if you adhere to the most diligent reading of their policy.

EDIT: in rereading some old messages, I should make clear that Joan at Union Station told me that "in general," personal photography is allowed in the building. But she also said it is prohibited from time to time and that they reserve the right "to prohibit photography of any kind." It's this vague policy that makes me uncomfortable, as it means a guard can pretty much as anyone to stop at any time for any reason (or for no reason). It was when I asked for clarification on this topic that I stopped getting responses.
Jim Poulos [deleted] 10 years ago
Adding to the confusion is that Amtrak sponsors a photo contest offering a $1,000 prize to the photographer that wins.

Amtrak photo contest

It's easy to say that people should not argue with the guards but write to management after the fact. But what if you are a tourist who will not get another opportunity to shoot the picture you always wanted? I see nothing wrong with asking for supervision - if the answer is still not satisfactory then I have no problem writing to management with cc:'s to the local ACLU chapters.

New York City tried to ban photography in its subway system approximately two years ago - a group of photographers held a protest inside the system which was covered by the local press. This helped raise public awareness and the result was that the proposal was dropped. Similarly when NYC proposed some draconian permit rules the resulting protests and petition drives forced them to reconsider. So protests do in fact work and I am not willing to give up the freedom to photograph transportation centers.

Jesse James did not need pictures to case the banks he was going to rob - terrorists do not need pictures either. The whole security issue surrounding photography is largely designed to give the public a false sense of security that authorities are doing something when in fact they are only hassling innocent people.
miscelena PRO Posted 10 years ago. Edited by miscelena (member) 10 years ago
I completely agree with that last paragraph, Jim - the idea that photography is a security risk is (as far as I can tell) due to the government's OpSec (Operational Security) policy.

The policy reads:
"The premise of OPSEC is that the accumulation of one or more elements of sensitive/unclassified information or data could damage national security by revealing classified information."

Photography, in this sense, is "surveillance", and the OpSec policy suggests that limiting it is similar to stopping your mail when you're going to be away from home.

THAT is the policy I have a real issue with - I understand the *concept*, but utterly disagree with it's application to photography. I think it's been taken WAY too far.... and trodding on the Constitution in the process.... and the (IMO faulty) concept has spread to local and private security companies as well.
miscelena PRO 10 years ago

Unfortunately (in come cases - fortunately in others) private companies do have the right to limit the behavior of people within their spaces. I don't agree that it's a GOOD idea for a shopping mall to limit photography (they typically claim to do it to 'protect' their retail tenant's intellectual property) but I do think it's outside of the protections offered by the Constitution.

IMO, if you want photos of that gorgeous architecture, go take them. They can stop you, but they can't make you erase the ones you've taken, and it's not illegal, just against (as you put it) the Rules. The worst they can do is escort you out .... WITH your photos.
erin m Posted 10 years ago. Edited by erin m (admin) 10 years ago
That's the root at what I've been trying to get at since February and which no one can help me figure out: Who on Earth actually DOES own Union Station? The mall management may say they have a policy, but is setting that policy even within their rights as a manager? If it is, I'll back off and sneak my photos as I've been doing all along. But I have a sneaking suspicion that it's not part of the leasing agreement, and no one's bothered to question them on that before.

It's such an awful way to welcome people to this city: Get off the train, marvel at the architecture, get yelled at by a security guard. On other other hand, it does get visitors acclimated to the DC photography climate right off the bat.

When I asked that question about ownership and leasing, that's when the Union Station woman stopped responding to me.

I welcome anyone who can help me get to the bottom of the ownership issue. Please. Seriously. Please?

And if it turns out that they can prohibit photography inside, what about outside? Where do my rights as a photographer begin and end on the Union Station grounds? Can I prop open the doors by B. Dalton and stand on the Metro escalator (where photography IS allowed) and use a 300 mm lens to shoot inside?
miscelena PRO 10 years ago
Heh... I see. You're probably familiar with it, but for everyone else's info, the Union Station / History website ( ) reads:

A unique public/private partnership was formed to faithfully restore the building to its original state and create a viable mixed use transportation center.

And I'm sure that the details of that 'partnership' aren't readily available, and I'm not surprised that no one wants to discuss it. I think the process others have been using to get answers (that is, contacting the relevant political leader) is likely to be your best bet, if Jones-LaSalle isn't answering you.

Before you go that far, though, it also might be worth calling the number on the site and asking to speak to a leasing agent - they're likely to know (and have documentation of) the Rules, as distributed to potential lessees... not only that, they're in customer service, and unlikely to take a defensive stance if you simply ask for the favor of an answer because you're curious (that is, don't ask about 'rights' or the Constitution or anything else that would send up a red flag that you might quote them later, hold them responsible, etc... they don't make the policy, but I'm sure they know it, because I'm sure they get questions from tenants.) I fully expect the answer to be that the mall is run like a shopping mall, however.
erin m 10 years ago

I called today and spoke to someone at customer relations. He in turn spoke with the Union Station station manager, who told him that no photography is permitted in the Amtrak areas of Union Station without prior permission and a permit from the station manager. The customer relations person I spoke with had no information regarding how one might apply for this permit or the rationale for it, but he did manage to say "9/11" about 15 times in a 10-minute conversation.

It should be noted that this Amtrak policy is in *direction opposition to* the Amtrak policy quoted to me last month by the Union Station property management office.

He suggested further inquiries should be put in writing to the following address:

Office of Customer Relations
Attn: John Wojcreciechowski
60 Massachusetts Ave NE
Washington, DC 20002
erin m Posted 10 years ago. Edited by erin m (admin) 10 years ago

In February, I e-mail-bombed the Jones-LaSalle contact list (in a very polite way), and they put me in touch with the woman at Union Station. So in a sense, I've already done the whole "ask the management and see what they say." That woman is the one who stopped responding when I asked for more details on the policy.

I also recently contacted the office of Tommy Wells, who is my member on the DC council and whose district also includes Union Station. Not really holding out hope for that, though, because the dude gets way too many requests as it is. Plus, the whole "i'll contact my political representative!" angle seems a little hollow and overused, but hey, he could step up and surprise me.
miscelena PRO 10 years ago
I agree that it would be nice if Amtrak got things straight across the board - and better yet, if they'd give you something in writing. Are you going to write? (That's a hell of a name, btw... how many times did he have to spell that for you?!)

I would certainly hope that your representatives answer your questions regarding a public/private partnership in their area - isn't that in their job description? If he doesn't answer within a few weeks, I'd definitely be a squeaky wheel. Chip here seems to be getting a good response from the politicians he's contacted...
techne PRO 10 years ago

Jeez. Can you imagine this guy's life?
lightboxdc Posted 10 years ago. Edited by lightboxdc (admin) 10 years ago
It's infuriating that staff cannot direct a member of the public to a clear policy, especially regarding an incredibly common behavior of taking photos in DC's gorgeous Union Station.

The property management company seems to be saying photography is fine on their turf, but not on Amtrak's turf. Meanwhile, Amtrak holds an annual photography contest that includes images of their stations, and Amtrak's written policy on their website only mentions permission for media crews, yet Amtrak staff continually halt photographers.

I will take photos again at Union Station in the near future, and if stopped, I'll present copies of what appears on Amtrak's website, and on LaSalle's website. And depending on the day, I can stand there for as long as they like while they call someone to clarify. But I'm not interested in verbal statements; we all deserve to know where the written policy exists that specifically prohibits photography. Because there is confusion, conflicting versions of events, and for God's sake it's the train station in the nation's capitol, I think these people should sorta get their act together.

Show me the writing, period.
erin m Posted 10 years ago. Edited by erin m (admin) 10 years ago
I'm definitely going to write, and I encourage others to as well. Though you might want to google the guy's name, because it's entirely possible that "r" was an "n" and I may have missed a "i" or an "o" here or there. Poor guy.

Before I write, though, I'm going to do a bit of research and make some calls to other stations along the northeast corridor, like Philly's 30th Street Station and Grand Central, just for comparison's sake. And I might call the station manager at Union Station a time or two, at different times of day, just to see if I really do get the same answer from different people.

And heads up: If you're ever stopped in Union Station, on the lower level by the food court is the property manager's badly written and completely incomprehensible photo policy. It's on a placard right before you enter the Metro doors.

EDIT: Well, for starters, here's a positive comparison. Grand Central makes it perfectly clear that photography is allowed in its building. Took me two seconds of googling to get that. Total time spent so far trying to track down Union Station's policy? Two months.
miscelena PRO 10 years ago
:::the property manager's badly written and completely incomprehensible photo policy. It's on a placard right before you enter the Metro doors. :::

Ha! You wouldn't have a photo of that, would ya? ; )
erin m 10 years ago
Sadly, no. It's first on my list next time I get up early enough to spare five minutes before getting on metro :)

Watch them yell at me for shooting it.
Tarheel Scot 10 years ago
In the run up to Katrina an Amtrak passenger in first class, and traveling from somewhere in the west to Florida, got off the train to take pictures of his locomotive while it was being serviced in New Orleans. He was told by an Amtrak crew member that he would need permission. When he asked the security guard the guard confiscated his camera, arrested him and took him to jail (this guy was in a sleeper and thus likely paying well over a thousand dollars for this trip). Incidentally, he met no possible profile criteria other than being male. When the train arrived at his destination no one onboard could tell those waiting for him where he was or why he was still not on the train (his baggage, etc., was). Fortunately, for the guard and Amtrak, the hurricane struck shortly thereafter and apparently they were able to slide off the hook due to much more serious issues needing to be addressed.
erin m Posted 10 years ago. Edited by erin m (admin) 10 years ago

Just now, I spoke with Corinna Romero in media/corporate relations here in DC. She assures me that nonmedia photography is absolutely allowed and it seems as though the station manager of Union Station and his employees are taking the media policy (which does require some contact with the station manager) to the Nth degree.

Ms. Romero was very helpful, understood my problem and, unlike everyone I've dealt with at Amtrak the last few days, realized that prohibiting tourists from taking photos as they arrive in Washington DC is a pretty dumb idea.

She's sending an e-mail to the station manager so that he is clear on the policy and asking him to clarify it for his employees as well. I'm not saying this will stop people from being hassled, but in the next few days every Amtrak worker at Union Station should know the correct policy. Whether they follow it is another matter.

Again, this only applies to the Amtrak areas of the station.
miscelena PRO 10 years ago
Go you! I'm impressed with your persistence. : )
Alt.Frames 10 years ago
What does "Amtrak areas of the station" mean? I take the MARC train in and out of Union Station and this uses CSX railroad lines, yet an Amtrak train can be right next to the MARC.

Don't mind me: just polishin' a turd..
erin m 10 years ago
Amtrak manages the areas from the Amtrak ticket counters to the back--including MARC and all that, I figure, because they share so much space. It was once told to me this way: "This area is generally defined as the Amtrak ticket counters northward to the train departure gates. "

It's the areas run by lasalle--the shopping areas, the great hall, the food court--that have a different photography policy. Currently, lasalle reserves the right to prohibit photography of any kind in those areas. (They often don't care, but you will on occasion run into a grumpy security guard who tells you to move along for pretty much any reason. As far as lasalle is concerned, they think they are completely within their rights to do that. See above comments for why I think this is stupid.)
staceyviera [deleted] Posted 10 years ago. Edited by staceyviera (member) 10 years ago
1. nice work calling public affairs, erin m. PR folks don't want any negative attention, *especially* if it's avoidable.

2. to further prove your point, i was actually told by security that the ONLY place to take photos is in the Great Hall. ha!
erin m Posted 10 years ago. Edited by erin m (admin) 10 years ago
was it amtrak security or mall/lasalle security, stacey? Either way, I'm starting to feel like I'm in an episode of the Outer Limits. An episode that never quite ends :)

Edit: And if it was the lasalle security, I encourage you to e-mail Joan Malkowski at Union Station ( Tell her what the guard told you and ask if the guard was perhaps in error. She doesn't seem to be responding to my e-mails anymore, and I'd be interested in knowing how her earlier e-mails to me failed to mention the unique rules for the great hall.
lightboxdc 10 years ago
erin m: You are the best. THANK YOU, so much, for working to get clarity from Amtrak on this. DC is gorgeous and fascinating, and a beautiful space like Union Station deserves its free place in the photos of tourists and residents alike. Again, thank you so much.
v1rotate PRO Posted 10 years ago. Edited by v1rotate (member) 10 years ago
This is absurd. Do they honestly expect people to refrain from photography in a railway station? It is a place of partings and reunions: events that demand to be photographed! This is a human right, their security be DAMMED!!!

Imagine if Henri Cartier-Bresson was told "NO PHOTOS" by security at the Gare St. Lazare. The greatest photo ever taken would not exist!
staceyviera [deleted] 10 years ago
excellent question, erin. i have no idea. (and wonder if the guard himself knows the difference.) ;-)
erin m Posted 10 years ago. Edited by erin m (admin) 10 years ago
Just going back over my old e-mail chain with the Union Station woman, and I found this sentence:

"In general, we do allow individuals to take pictures for their personal (not commercial) use. However, from time to time, it is necessary to prohibit photography, depending on the situation."

I admire that sentiment, but how much is it actually applied? That guard certainly didn't apply it when talking to Stacey. And this was less than two months after Joan told me she was hoping to make sure all guards knew their policy.
HeatherMG 10 years ago
I wrote a post on the topic over at DCist -- thanks to erin m for speaking with me about her experience.
hennessey|g Posted 10 years ago. Edited by hennessey|g (member) 10 years ago
Wow, That's 10 minutes of my life I'll never get back. It is becoming clear that there are several people around D.C. who are under the misconception that we live in a "free" society were laws, rules, and guidelines are clearly thought out, and enforced with an even empathetic hand.

I understand that some people live in a world where they are used to getting what they want or an explanation as to why they weren't allowed to have it but there is no excuse for believing in today world that its like that for everyone.

I believe that its important to fight for your rights but if someone came into your home and started snapping photos and you told them to stop and they asked you for your written policy as to "why they had to stop" you would probably smack them but go into a place like Union Station and do the same thing and its an injustice? I don't understand it and I'm all for fighting against injustice. I could understand and rail against such policies at public places like the Mall and the Monuments but a privately owned building?

Maybe I'm sensitive to this because I managed a restaurant in Union Station for several years and I know what those security guards have to deal with on a nightly basis but I'm at a loss for why this is taking up a considerable portion of some people's lives.

Someone in the discussion posted that it clearly stated;
""Management reserves the right to prohibit photography of any kind in their sole discretion."

To me that is an end of story kind of statement. Its not a public place it's a private place of business. Can someone explain to me why they need to explain to anyone why they don't want pictures taken when it clearly states that they have the rights to prohibit it.

I know that this is a differing opinion here but since we're talking 1st amendment, I thought I'd throw it in.
Jim Poulos [deleted] 10 years ago
hegphotography: "I believe that its important to fight for your rights but if someone came into your home and started snapping photos and you told them to stop and they asked you for your written policy as to "why they had to stop" you would probably smack them but go into a place like Union Station and do the same thing and its an injustice? I don't understand it and I'm all for fighting against injustice. I could understand and rail against such policies at public places like the Mall and the Monuments but a privately owned building?"

The analogy isn't the same when it comes to Union Station. First of all you do not invite the general public and tourists into your home? - Union Station does. Do you really expect tourists to look at such a beautiful work of architecture and not pull out their cameras?

Secondly - do you sponsor a PHOTO CONTEST of all of your properties and equipment as long as it is from areas normally accessible to the public only to turn around and scream at photographers who participate? AMTRAK sponsors just such a contest every year offering a $1,000 prize to the winner.

Amtrak public relations says photography is legal - the storekeepers in the mall say it is not and Amtrak employees on the ground are CLUELESS if not downright vindictive!

So yes - a policy needs to be defined and signs need to be posted accordingly.
hennessey|g Posted 10 years ago. Edited by hennessey|g (member) 10 years ago
My point was and still is that since they have a policy that states that they have the right to prevent anyone from taking photographs that they see fit, it won't matter if they define the rules and post a sign. If they are the Vindictive and Clueless (your words) people that you say they are, then they can still prevent you from taking a photograph if they want. Until the space is defined as public property you really don't have a horse in the race.
erin m Posted 10 years ago. Edited by erin m (admin) 10 years ago
My point was and still is that since they have a policy that states that they have the right to prevent anyone from taking photographs that they see fit.

One of the major questions at hand here, hennessey, is whether the property manager has the right to create that policy. Union Station is not privately owned , a fact I think you may not be entirely clear on. Similar arrangements of such national landmarks--Grand Central, for instance--have no prohibitions on photography. I absolutely agree with you that a private business has the right to set its own policy on photography, but that's not what we're talking about here.

And yes, I devoted a lot of time last week to this issue. I'm sorry you feel my time was wasted, but hey, no one asked you to do it. No one asked me to, either, but it was something I thought was important. To each his own.
furcafe PRO 10 years ago
Exactly, erin. Union Station is not a shopping mall, though part of it is. Nor is it a completely private establishment like a restaurant or nightclub, where the owners have the right to prohibit photography. The problem comes w/these mixed public/private spaces (just like the part of Silver Spring where Chip got hassled).
Jim Poulos [deleted] 10 years ago
Without even going into the ownership/ first amendment issues let me give hegphotography benefit of the doubt and say that Union Station has a photograpy policy. If they do not post signs then how are people supposed to know what the policy is? Do you presume that people are clairvoyant? Do tourists have to read minds? Tourists arrive in a beautiful building and do what comes naturally - TAKE PICTURES! What kind of PR is it for Washington DC if they are greeted by a mean-spirited emplyee BARKING orders at them?

Now for the ownership issue - Are you saying AMTRAK does not own the building? AMTRAK has a specific policy allowing photography and is running a photo contest. So who is LYING? The Amtrak Public Relations department or the Amtrak employee at Union Station? Obviously one of them is clueless and passing along misinformation.

Grand Central is privately owned by a real estate investment group and leased to a public authority (the MTA). While there is an ongoing dispute over whether or not photography is allowed at track level - there is no doubt that photography of the station is permitted and ENCOURAGED. The MTA recognizes that tourists are important to the economy of New York and does not want to offend them. On the other hand does DC want to discourage tourism? Allowing security guards to bark at people like dogs certainly does!
Alt.Frames 10 years ago
And - in my opinion, unfortunately - many "public" areas are increasingly becoming "quasi-public" (that is, "private-public").

Where do our rights end? How so? When? Is it now our responsibility to know (vis-a-vis magical awareness) the rules ("Please take photos of our strain station!" .... "HEY YOU CAN"T TAKE PHOTOGRAPHS HERE").

The increasing number of public-private developments lead to an Orwellian/Kafkaesque scenario:

You never know what you can or can't do.

You're never told what you can or can't.
miscelena PRO 10 years ago
Hey Chris - I'm curious, and you probably know - what's the 'legal' definition of private vs. public?

If it's not the ownership of the property (in which case all gov't owned spaces would technically be 'public', yes?) then what determines it?

Follow up: Is there likely to be a part of the Union Station ownership agreement that allows the mall management to consider their space 'private' when enforcing policies? Is that document where we could expect to find an answer? Or is it more likely that there's no real answer, because it depends on who you talk to, and their interpretation of the agreement?
Jim Poulos [deleted] 10 years ago
Railroad station ownership can be complicated. The stations were built and owned by private railroad companies until Amtrak was formed in the early 1970s. Amtrak itself is a unique entity. Although it is subsidized by the government it is organized like a private company. In exchange for turning over certain assets (equipment and some properties) the freight railroads were given stock in Amtrak. Amtrak's losses eventually eroded their equity but the corporate structure remains.

Ownership of Grand Central in New York was retained by the Penn Central Corp, which still exists today in the insurance business as the American Financial Group. A few years ago AFG (Penn Central) sold the terminal to a private equity group. The MTA has a long term lease but does not own it.

Lots of other stations may still be owned by the original railroads or their successors.
furcafe PRO Posted 10 years ago. Edited by furcafe (member) 10 years ago
Jim P's post is helpful on the complicated ownership of U.S. railroad stations. I don't know whether Union Station was, like Grand Central, owned by 1 of the big RRs.

However, to answer Miscelena's question, IIRC from law school, it's not just ownership of the property, but whether the building/facility is open to public use. The Pentagon, for example, is obviously gov't-owned, but isn't a public space in the same way as the National Mall.
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