We're all for replacing paper tickets with app-based digital scanners, but these chubby iPhone ticket scanners that Amtrak plans to use make the out-going hole puncher look svelte in comparison.
By the end of the summer, Amtrak will have trained 1,700 conductors to use a new iPhone-based electronic ticket system that Apple blog 9to5Mac has learned is made by Übermind.
The switch from manual to digital ticket tracking is an attempt to make the Amtrak traveling experience more efficient:
The old manual ticketing process -- punching a hole in the ticket, putting it in a pouch and then sending it to a central location, where it is eventually scanned and entered into a database -- was not very good at tracking passengers on board because of the delay between when the ticket was checked and when it was processed.
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.
The added girth of the iPhone ticket scanner comes from an extra long battery and barcode scanner. So fear not the next time you're riding Amtrak and don't see a conductor with hole puncher, but with brick in his/her hand instead; he's a friendly — not a robot clone.
In addition to Amtrak staff getting fitted with the iPhone scanners, passengers can also download the Amtrak app (iPhone-only for now. Android is coming soon) that lets them change their trains on the fly. The focus is on real-time updates that'll make riding with Amtrak better than ever before.
If you're a conductor for Amtrak, your pocket is about to get a tad bit heavier.