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Amtrak to use Apple's iPhone as ticket scanner

In yet another example of the proliferation of iOS-based devices in our world, Amtrak has decided to issue its train conductors iPhones to be used as electronic ticket scanners.

Even the time-honored tradition of hole-punched train tickets is subject to Apple's wave of change. A program that began its training last November for a few select Amtrak routes will expand to include 1,700 train conductors across the country by late summer, according to the New York Times.

The new, iPhone-based system will allow Amtrak customers to print tickets or access a special bar code that conductors will be able to scan. On the back end, conductors will be able to keep track of the passengers on board much easier than with the hole-punch system.

"You don't even need to print the document and bring it with you. We've made a number of important improvements for both our customers and Amtrak, all in one fell swoop," said Matt Hardison, chief of sales distribution at Amtrak.

Amtrak is a government-owned company that maintains the rail system in the U.S.

The iPhone program represents a new era for Amtrak's business. By checking in passengers electronically, conductors will be more efficient and cut down on mistakes that were possible with the old, ticket-punching method.

The iPhones used by Amtrak conductors will have specially designed scanners attached and will include a company app that keeps track of passengers, sends alerts to the engineers if disabled-person assistance is necessary, and sends reports of maintenance needs to mechanics.

With the new ticketing system being electronic, customers also benefit. Currently if a change in reservations needs to be made at the last minute, the customer would have to get a refund issued at a ticketing window, then get a new ticket issued. With the Amtrak iPhone app, however, customers can make adjustments on the fly, without having to worry about ticketing lines.

According to Amtrak, the iPhone system cost $7.5 million to implement, including a $5.5 million investment in app software development. Currently, Amtrak's app is iPhone-only, though an Android version is in the works and should be released sometime this fall. Amtrak's mobile Web app is accessible to any device with Web capabilities.