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Metra train photo ban clarified

(NBC News Chicago affiliate NBC5 posted the following article on its website on August 29.)

CHICAGO -- A photo ban that had been issued by the Union Pacific Railroad for its public Metra stops has been "clarified," officials said, to allow train enthusiasts to continue taking pictures.

Union Pacific had issued the ban on its Metra stops for security reasons, NBC5's Natalie Martinez reported. The new policy will allow photos, but suspicious activity would also allow any employee to question the photographer.

One train enthusiast, William Shapotkin, is the president of the Railroad Club of Chicago and an author of books about trains. Shapotkin said he enjoys taking pictures from the Metra platform near his Wilmette home. Shapotkin pointed out that the Metra platform was a public space.

"It's not like you're trespassing the railroad yard where you have no business being," he said.

Shapotkin said in New York and New Jersey, similar bans were installed, but eventually, the railroad backed off there as well. A Metra representative said they were not informed of any of this by Union Pacific and learned of the original ban, like Shapotkin, in "Trains" magazine.

Shapotkin added that the targets of the increased security were the very people most likely to notice and report something out of the ordinary.

"The bottom line is we still live in the United States, these station platforms are a public area -- the public is being invited to come down there."

Ed Yohnka of the American Civil Liberties Union said he did not know of any federal or state statute that allowed someone to bar photography in a public space.

One commuter said he did not see a problem with train enthusiasts taking photos from a public space.

"It's a public place, pictures can be taken," said one commuter. "To have a prohibition -- I think there are too many prohibitions that are coming about lately."

Tuesday, August 29, 2006

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