You’ve seen and heard it all before: Wrongheaded Muni employees enforcing a ban on photography that isn’t actually Muni policy.

Most recently, a local public high school student was shooting some (noncommercial) video on the K-Ingleside when he encountered fare inspectors 57 and 61. We’re not going to recap the video, because you can just watch it, but it’s another verse in that same old story — a Muni representative telling a patron that they are not allowed to take pictures or video on Muni property.

This 5′ 5″. 16-year-old Galileo student, who says “I just like to videograph or take pictures in my spare time,” says he was detained at Forest Hill Station “for, like, 20 minutes,” by the fare inspectors after the incident.

This minor, who asked that we not name him in the story due to the threats made to him by the fare inspector in the video, emailed Muni csutomer support, Muni spokesperson Judson True, and Muni head Nathaniel Ford after the incident, as well as filing a customer complaint on the MTA site.

Nearly a month after the incident, the only response the student received was a follow-up letter from Muni Customer Services, noting his complaint, and saying “If you have a follow-up question regarding your report, please contact us at 415.701.5640 and refer to Passenger Service Report #339409.” Unfortunately, when we took Muni up on their offer, we were told they were unable to help us with any questions, as “it is against regulations to discuss an investigation.”

We showed MTA spokesperson Judson True the video, asking him: Is Muni going to publically announce and post a video/photography policy?

His answer: “Yes, and the policy will say that non-commercial video and photography will be OK as long as it doesn’t disturb transit.” Well, when? Plug1 is getting (understandably) anxious!

“We have a little more work to do to get it written up and clarified. But we should have it soon.”

In the interim, True says, fare inspectors are, indeed, being trained that non-disruptive photography and video is acceptable.

This is a relief, as the behavior of the fare inspectors in this video is particularly troubling. As we said to True, watching the video, it doesn’t seem like the fare inspectors are trying, necessarily, to enforce Muni policy — you don’t hear them say “you can’t film on Muni” as much as you hear them saying “you can’t film me,” they refer to Muni as “private property,” etc.

True agreed with us that reasonable expectation of privacy, as it’s known, does not extend to the public property that is a Muni vehicle. “After all, we’re filming you” True noted, as we did our best not to shout “except on Muni Metro!” However, per Muni regulations he could not comment on this specific case, any discipline fare inspectors 57 and 61 might undergo, or any offer any other insights into this minor’s treatment at the hands of these employees.

We asked him what any other non-disruptive, amateur photographer should do if confronted in this way by a fare inspector or operator. His answer: “Ask to speak to their supervisor. If that doesn’t work, call 311 and file a complaint with all the details.” The Appeal would like to add, and contact us.

the author

Eve Batey is the editor and publisher of the San Francisco Appeal. She used to be the San Francisco Chronicle's Deputy Managing Editor for Online, and started at the Chronicle as their blogging and interactive editor. Before that, she was a co-founding writer and the lead editor of SFist. She's been in the city since 1997, presently living in the Outer Sunset with her husband, cat, and dog. You can reach Eve at

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