To those now accustomed to e-ticketing among the airlines Amtrak is now introducing the service on their Downeaster line. The Downeaster line which extends from Maine to Boston has initiated a new system in which travellers can print their tickets at home, or have them a pdf file emailed to their account. This would allow conductors to scan the barcodes from the file. Passengers with a smartphone would be able to open the pdf file attached to the email, display the barcode from the pdf file and show it to the conductor to allow her to scan the ticket information.
What this will also do is allow Amtrak customers the ability to change their reservations at the last minute. It will also give Amtrak the ability to have an updated passenger manifest at all times. This will not apply to all passengers as those who are on group packages, or who purchased their ticket through a travel agent will still use the current paper ticketing system. On a recent Thanksgiving weekend trip I noticed that conductors now carry with them a scanner/printer set allowing them to scan tickets or issue new tickets on the spot.
Although Amtrak issued a press release introducing the service as well as issuing a November 3rd Twiter tweet, I could find nothing on the Downeaster website describing the service.
Amtrak plans to expand the trial to California in February, and if that goes well, the system could roll out on a nationwide basis as early as this summer.
Note: The Downeaster line has recently announced an expansion project to extend the line from Portland to Freeport and Brunswick. Construction was started in August of 2010 and is expected to be completed in the Fall of 2012.
USA Today - Amtrak tests e-ticketing on Downeaster service.
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