Transport Theory

iPhones streamline Amtrak's ticketing process

Posting in Technology

Amtrak's new smartphone app promises to make life easier for both passengers and conductors.

Sometimes it seems like the actual 'phone' part of the iPhone is just an afterthought. These days, the Apple smartphones double as cash registers, movie screens, GPS systems, sleep sensors… you get the idea.

Now, iPhones are helping to streamline an industry that has up until now resisted the forward march of technology. Amtrak has been training its railroad conductors to use the gadgets to scan boarding passes. While for the time being this has only been implemented on a few of the company's routes, the plan is to roll out the practice with 1,700 train conductors on routes around the country by the end of the summer.

The main advantage to this system is that passengers no longer need to obtain actual boarding passes. A simple printout - or even a bar code on a smartphone screen - will suffice.

Aside from scanning barcodes, the new system will allow conductors to know in real-time if passengers don't show up for a given train, so they may give others a seat, for instance. Conductors can also use the gadgets to coordinate wheelchair lifts for disabled passengers boarding at a particular stop, or to report problems with equipment.

For passengers, aside from the convenience of sidestepping the printed boarding pass, they will be able to more easily make or change reservations via Amtrak's iPhone app (rather than getting a refund and booking a new ticket).

The Amtrak application - which cost the company $7.5 million to develop - is available only for iPhone at the moment, but an Android version is expected to be released later this year.

Photo: Amtrak via Apple Store

via [The New York Times]

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Channtal Fleischfresser

Contributing Editor

Contributing Editor Channtal Fleischfresser has worked for The Economist, WNET/Channel 13, Al Jazeera English, Wall Street Journal and Associated Press. She holds degrees from the University of Pennsylvania and the Columbia University Graduate School of Journalism. She is based in New York. Follow her on Twitter. Disclosure