Can You Believe We’re Still Having This Conversation?

muni_driver.jpgThe issue of Muni employees falsely claiming that one can’t use cameras on their vehicles is one that many hoped would be resolved after the SFMTA released their official photography and video guidelines last year. Finally, you might have thought, the problem that’s come up again and again and again will be resolved, and drivers will allow personal photography to proceed in peace! If you thought this, you are adorable and idealistic. But you are wrong.

Way back in January, 2010, then Muni spokesperson Judson True told us that Muni employees were being trained that non-disruptive photography and video is acceptable. Sadly, it appears that some drivers didn’t get the memo — L Taraval (train number 1465-A, if you’re keeping track) rider Matthew Fellows tells the Appeal that on Friday morning at 9:30:

I was up by the driver. I was about to respond to a number of tweets (I had headphones on at the time) and the driver started talking to me. He said a few times that I needed to either point my camera-phone elsewhere or that I needed to put it away.

Having ridden Muni for 7+ years I was totally confused and ignored him the first time at which point he stood up out of his chair and repeated that I had to put it away. I was appalled and without being sure of what to do I put my phone back in my pocket.

The rest of the ride was mostly uneventful, however, when someone else was using his BlackBerry near the door the driver instructed him that he needed to put it away.

Had the SFMTA policy changed since last year perhaps in response to camera-phone video like the infamous texting driver or open door issues?

Why else would the driver feel secure in telling riders they can’t use camera phones, especially since they — as well as riders — are already on camera?

While SFMTA spokesperson Paul Rose wasn’t willing to speculate on what the driver was thinking, he reiterated to the Appeal that, as has been the case, the SFMTA has “no restrictions on cell phones or cell phone video” on Muni vehicles or in Muni stations, and that they encourage riders to let the SFMTA know if they encounter any employees who suggest otherwise.

What should a rider do if they encounter a driver (or fare inspector, etc) who tells them they have to stow their camera or phone? “They should call 311 and let us know” says Rose.

If you’re going to lodge a complaint, make sure to get the driver’s number, which should be visible on their arm, the vehicle number, and the route you’re on. (And after you call 311, drop us a line!)

Fellows asked if anyone else had been seeing an increase in drivers opposing use of phones that may or may not be recording Muni activity, or if it was just one driver in particular.

Readers, what say you, have you seen or heard more drivers nixing camera phone use lately?

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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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