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Amtrak enhances passenger convenience with mobile ticketing on all trains

Following a successful test on five routes, Amtrak is expanding a digital ticketing program to all trains, enabling passengers to use their smartphones to present tickets to the conductor.

The eTicket program is now available on all trains within Amtrak’s national network, including the Northeast Corridor, state-supported routes and long-distance services. As a result, passengers can skip the ticket lines at train stations and go straight to the gate.

“Mobile technology is the foundation upon which the eTicketing program is built,” said Christina E. Leeds, media relations manager at Amtrak, Washington.

“The eTicketing program uses mobile technology to connect the conductor onboard a moving train to the reservation system in real time,” she said. “This allows the conductor to have real-time information about passengers who have booked or modified their reservation for the train he is working.

“We simply could not provide this level of connectivity to our conductors without the use of mobile.”

Rapid adoption
With eTickets, passengers can make a reservation and receive an eTicket via email.

Passengers using a smartphone or other mobile device can present the eTicket to the conductor by opening the document from the email.

ETickets can also be printed from any printer, including at Amtrak ticket offices and Quik-Trak kiosks.

Additionally, passengers can also buy tickets and display eTicket bar codes with the Amtrak mobile application.

With the eTicket program, passengers can also easily change reservations and lost or misplaced tickets can be easily reprinted.

“Amtrak piloted eTickets on five routes before today’s national rollout where it quickly exceeded expectations as rapid adoption by passengers resulted in shorter lines at ticket counters, less tickets sold onboard trains and fewer claims of lost tickets,” Ms. Leeds said.

Mobile ticketing grows
The use of digital tickets and mobile technology in the open-boarding environment of intercity passenger rail is growing.

Beginning with a small pilot this summer and rolling out more broadly in the fall, the Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority is introducing mobile applications that can be used to purchase commuter rail tickets and passes. Once tickets are purchased, customers can use the apps to display the tickets on their mobile device (see story).

Additionally, New York’s MTA Metro-North Railroad is testing a new application that will let consumers buy train tickets via their mobile device. The time and date stamped electronic ticket shows up on a consumer’s mobile screen as a secure image that a conductor can validate visually (see story).

For Amtrak, one of the benefits of the eTicket program is that it provides more accurate knowledge in real-time of who is on a train, en route reporting of onboard equipment problems to mechanical crews and more efficient financial reporting.

“Amtrak developed eTicket technology to enhance the passenger travel experience, deliver a higher level of safety and customer service, and improve its business and financial performance,” Ms. Leeds said.

Final Take
Chantal Tode is associate editor on Mobile Commerce Daily, New York