Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Interlock, Schminterlock

Alarmingly, around one half of the N Judahs I've taken eastbound from the Outer Sunset these past two weeks have had non working interlocks, or have had them disengaged. When I say this I mean that I've seen the trains move with doors open and/or see the doors open automatically while the train is moving. This used to be a rarity and now it seems to be de rigeur. Today the right rear door of the car I was riding in closed after the train started moving, the obstruction beep sounded, and the door reopened ... train kept on moving. What's the deal with this? Even scarier was when I used that door to exit and the operator shut it on me before the alighting passengers had even gotten in. Fortunately I didn't wind up riding down Judah half in, half out of the train.

I'll write Ken MacDonald and see what happens.

Photography is Allowed

While I was doing my usual thing of moderately discreetly taking photographs a little earlier today (this time at Montgomery station), I passed another photographer, this one a woman who was carrying a more conspicuous camera and a small metal folding ladder. (!) She was taking photos of handrails or something like that, from outside the paid area, in the corridor away from almost all foot traffic. But after a while, someone in the BART booth announced on the PA that "Photography is not allowed on BART property without permission."

Well, that would be wrong for any number of reasons, the most obvious of which is the actual BART policy:


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 is 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.
Permission, which required, involves a time-consuming and relatively expensive ($250) permit process, but a woman taking photographs of nothing in particular is not a security threat, not harassing riders, and not doing anything commercial (if she was taking salable photographs, I'd like to know what kind of nut is buying them).

I use less conspicuous gear (I never use a camera on a neck strap, and don't shoot with a huge pro body) and keep my camera out of sight when I'm not using it. But her mistake was carrying the damn ladder (one of those white kitchen type step things about four feet high) around with her.

Maybe you guys in the booths could just chill out a little. Anyway, I've shot around 1500 photographs on Muni and BART this year, for a Blurb book project and possibly an exhibit, and no one bugs me about it.


PTCruiser said...

"I'll write Ken MacDonald and see what happens."
Good luck with that. I know exactly what the cause for the interlock failure is. He's just not likely to be concerned about it.

Joseph N. Hall said...

Please enlighten me. Riding down the street with a door open has become an everyday occurrence for me now.

jennconspiracy said...

The whole issue is that their definition of "potentially sensitive" can vary widely based on who you are, who is on duty and what they are trying to prove.

Joseph N. Hall said...

Mostly I think they are trying to prove that they can enforce unconstitutional policies on photography.

BART's photography policy is basically unconstitutional and unenforceable. A very similar policy implemented by Muni a few years ago was rescinded after vigorous protest.

You could certainly be arrested for trespassing if found in an area closed to the public, but as far as I know, paid and unpaid areas in BART and Muni are public, and prohibitions on photography for editorial or creative purposes are just hot air.

Joseph N. Hall said...


Since this I have learned/observed that the plug doors on the Bredas frequently have difficulty closing even on slight uphill grades (even 3-4% seems to do it). I suspect that operators disengage the interlocks on grades when their doors are reluctant to close. Is this correct?

Of course that will be small consolation to someone who gets caught in a door and killed, even if the train is on a hill.