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Monday, June 03, 2013

Can I take photos at Union Station?

Can I take photos at Union Station?

This age-old question is a most complicated one to answer and I have never been able to get a straight answer from anyone. According to the tour I took with the Toronto Railway Historical Association, I could take photos of the Great Hall, but not the GO Concourse or the platforms. According to GO Transit, there are no restrictions anywhere in the Concourse or on the platforms. The events of this past weekend call this into question.

It is important to note that these are specific circumstances that will likely not apply to most railway photographers. The arrested party was a journalist with the Toronto Star, meaning that he was not part of the general public. He was photographing an altercation between passengers and GO Police (who are technically not full police) when he was arrested for trespassing. The difficulty with Union Station is that it falls under multiple jurisdictions: GO Police, Union Station Security and Toronto Police all operate in different parts of the station.

While I feel that the reaction was excessive, there are specific regulations pertaining to the media. That said, I would support anyone wanting to document a police procedure, such as the one the Star's reporter tried to, because this is a way to assure police accountability for their actions.

The fight against photographers lead by transit authorities around the world will not be resolved. The problem is this: cameras are increasingly small and discreet, many are in mobile phones. Unless security is willing to confiscate ever person's phone (which would not go down too well), the battle against photography is lost. The internet is already full of photos of Union Station and the new roof over the platforms is bound to attract photographers to what will be one of Toronto's largest architectural landmarks.

So, can I take photos at Union Station? This is an educated attempt at an answer. If other people around are taking photos, it is probably fine. If there is a problem, be polite and try to work it out - try and get a concrete reason as to why you are being stopped. According to GO Transit's by-laws:

No person shall operate any camera, video recording device, movie camera
or any similar device for commercial purposes upon the transit system
without the express written permission of the Corporation.

Seeing as GO does have jurisdiction over the Concourse and many of the platforms, it sounds like the average railway photographer should have no trouble if they want to grab a quick photo getting on or off a train. Any more than that and loitering can come into play. In short, it's a tricky issue and likely will only be solved if and when you happen to be questioned.

Read the story: Toronto Star reporter arrested, ticketed after taking photos of injured GO transit officer | Toronto Star

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