Here is the Statement on Proposed Rules of Conduct for New York City Subway and Bus Riders from the Straphangers Campaign website
Thursday, May 20, 2004
Today, MTA New York City Transit proposed the first major changes to its Rules of Conduct for subway and bus riders in about a decade.
The NYPIRG Straphangers Campaign is sympathetic with the goal of making the subways safer and we support most of the proposed rule changes. But we have several concerns, which we plan to raise during the 45-day state-mandated public comment period for these proposals.
We object to the proposed rule that would completely ban taking photographs, film or video in the subways and on buses with limited exceptions. We respect the need for security in the transit system, but believe that there are important values in having photographers document life and conditions on the subways and buses.
The Campaign notes that in this year of the subway centennial, the MTA itself is sponsoring an exhibition of photographic images "offering a peek into the lives of New Yorkers throughout the decades, from quiet moments reading on a crowded train to grandstanding youths on an elevated platform." Photographers in the MTA-sponsored exhibition include Bruce Davidson and Henri Cartier-Bresson. (See MTA News Release at http://www.mta.info/mta/news/currentyear/040405.htm.)
The rule provides two exceptions that raise serious First Amendment issues of favoring one kind of expression over another. The rule would permit photographs by "members of the press holding valid press identification cards issued by the New York City Police Department" or "others duly authorized in writing to" take photos, films and video. No standards are detailed in the proposed rules for issuing such authorizations
Another rule would prohibit any person from "performing an act" with "may interfere with or may tend to interfere with the provision of transit service or obstructs or may tend to obstruct the flow of traffic on facilities …." The Campaign is concerned that the "may tend to" language is vague and overbroad and might criminalize regular rider behavior, such as stopping for a moment in front of a turnstile to take out your MetroCard.
The Campaign supported a rule that would clearly prohibit "using the end doors of a subway car to pass from one subway car to another unless directed to do so by" a transit employee or police officer. But the Campaign urged that the rule be clarified to permit such passage in an emergency situation.
New York City Transit has said that the complete text of the rules will be posted at www.mta.info.
For More Information, Contact: Gene Russianoff (212) 349-6460