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Amtrak passengers no longer have to visit a station kiosk or ticket counter to get their train tickets. Amtrak on Monday began offering e-ticketing throughout its system, allowing passengers to buy and print their tickets at home or the office, or just download them to their smartphones, where conductors will be able to scan the tickets on the phone’s screen.
The technology has been around for some time; airlines have long allowed passengers to print boarding passes at home and some carriers offer the ability to download boarding passes to the passenger’s smartphone. At Albany International Airport, for example, United has equipped the Transportation Security Administration checkpoint with readers that will scan passengers’ smartphones.
Amtrak has been testing the service on five routes, and said it “quickly exceeded expectations as rapid adoption by passengers resulted in shorter lines at ticket counters, (fewer) tickets sold on board trains and fewer claims of lost tickets.”
E-tickets are emailed to passengers when they make reservations on line, and they can open the document from their email on their smartphone or other device and present it to the conductor for scanning.
Group tickets and multi-ride tickets will continue to be issued conventionally.
For Amtrak, there are other advantages. The railroad gets real-time information on who has actually boarded the train, and more efficient financial reporting, the railroad said. If someone who reserved a room on an overnight train hasn’t shown up, Amtrak could sell the space to other passengers.
There’s a related application that allows conductors to report mechanical issues — a broken seat or malfunctioning plumbing — so that mechanics can be prepared to fix the problem when the train arrives at its destination, reducing the amount of time the railroad car will be out of service.
Passengers, meanwhile, will be able to change their ticket without having to stand in line at a ticket counter. Someone who had a business meeting that ended early could switch their reservation to an earlier train, for example, an Amtrak spokesman said.
Amtrak conductors have been equipped with iPhones to perform the scanning and to notify mechanics of issues needing their attention. A railroad spokesman wasn’t immediately able to quantify how much the system cost, or how much money it is expected to save the railroad. — by Eric Anderson