Apple’s iPhone is about to be implemented into the American railroad system in a big way. Amtrak, the government agency that oversees the nation’s train services, will be adopting the iPhone as a digital ticket scanner. The 1,700 conductors who currently work for Amtrak have been undergoing training with the iPhone since November, and the new initiative will be fully rolled out by late summer.
Amtrak will be able to monitor passenger check-ins in real time thanks to an iPhone app that’s used to scan tickets. Each conductor’s iPhone will be equipped with a special case and barcode scanner. The traditional method of punching holes in paper tickets has been long overdue for a revamp, and it looks like Amtrak is up to something great with its new system. In the future, passengers will no longer need to print a physical ticket, as conductors will be able to scan the barcode on each passenger’s smartphone.
According to The New York Times:
With the new iPhone-powered system, conductors can monitor passenger check-ins in real time. That will help them manage seating: if there are passengers who don’t show up, for example, it will be easier to fill empty seats with other passengers.
“When it was all a manual system there was a lot of guesswork involved,” said Patricia Quinn, executive director of the Northern New England Passenger Rail Authority, which contracts with Amtrak to operate the train service from Boston to Portland.
Instead of having to manually enter pieces of paper into a centralized database hours later, the new app model will allow for updates to be pushed to Amtrak instantly.
Amtrak passengers can download the free iPhone app in the App Store to book tickets, check schedules and routes, train status, etc. The only routes that currently support eTicketing are Downeaster (Portland, ME – Boston), City of New Orleans (Chicago – New Orleans), Capitol Corridor (Sacramento – San Jose), San Joaquin (Oakland – Bakersfield), and Heartland Flyer (Oklahoma City – Fort Worth). More routes will be added later this year.
The project cost Amtrak a total of $15 million, and the new passenger app is only available on the iPhone out of the gate. Android support will be added in the near future. Any device is able to pull up ticket information, including eTicket barcodes, from Amtrak’s mobile website.