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Amtrak begins testing e-ticketing system, other futuristic things

Amar Toor, @amartoo

It's been a long time coming, but it looks like Amtrak is finally ready to get with the times. This month, the human-carrier began testing a new e-ticketing system for passengers traveling along its Downeaster line, which extends from Maine to Boston. Under the trial, travelers can either print their tickets at home, or have them e-mailed as a barcode-laced PDF file for conductors to scan. Customers can also change their reservations at the last minute, without having to wait in line at the ticket counter and interact with other people. It's not exactly cutting-edge technology, but Amtrak attributes the delay to the unique nature of the railway, where conductors check tickets in transit and have to deal with a steady stream of passengers getting on and hopping off. As a result, the company had to find a scanning device reliable enough to handle this constant flow of organisms, though it looks as if it's nearing a solution. 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.

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Print at home option provides greater convenience for passengers

NEW YORK – Amtrak is announcing today the start of a pilot test of its eTicketing
system on the Amtrak Downeaster service, which operates daily between Boston and Portland, Maine.

The eTicketing program provides passengers increased flexibility when making or
changing reservations and eliminates the need to obtain traditional paper tickets. Amtrak intends to rollout eTicketing to all its trains nationwide during 2012.

With eTicketing, passengers have the ability to print their reservations from the comfort
of their home or office. A receipt will be e-mailed to the customer with the eTicket attached as a printable PDF document which can be printed any time prior to travel.

Passengers also will be able to use their Smartphone to present their eTicket to the
conductor, by simply opening the eTicket PDF document from their email on their Smartphone
and displaying the barcode for the conductor to scan.

If a customer misplaces their eTicket, they can re-print the document for presentation onboard. Passengers may also print their eTickets at Amtrak ticket offices and Quik-Trak kiosks.

Under the pilot test, eTickets will be issued to passengers who have one way or round trip
reservations. Passengers with more complicated bookings will continue to receive traditional paper value tickets, including when they:
• Are traveling beyond the Downeaster route;
• Have purchased a Multi-Ride Ticket; (e.g., monthly or ten-trip ticket)
• Have a group ticket;
• Are paying travel on the train; or
• Have purchased travel at a travel agency or corporate travel office

Amtrak Downeaster eTicketing customers will now be able to make changes to their
reservations online until the start of their journey. During 2012, Amtrak will look to provide greater flexibility to its online customers with respect to modifying reservations once a trip is underway.

Amtrak operates the Downeaster under contract with the State of Maine's Northern New
England Passenger Rail Authority (NNEPRA.)

"We thank our partners at NNEPRA for their continued support and cooperation in
helping bring this exciting initiative to our passengers," said Emmett Fremaux, Amtrak vice president for marketing and product development. "The eTicketing process provides a more convenient and flexible way for customers to book their travel on this increasingly popular line."

Ridership on the Amtrak Downeaster line increased dramatically this past year,
exceeding the 500,000 passenger mark for the first time, with overall ridership more than
doubling since 2005.

"I am enthusiastic about the positive effect that eTicketing will have on operations for the Downeaster", said Patricia Quinn, Executive Director, NNEPRA. "The electronic validation of tickets is a critical step in improving service, revenue accountability and security on our trains. It's exciting for the Downeaster service to be one of the first to offer this new technology."

With the introduction of this new eTicketing capability for customers, Amtrak has also
garnered industry recognition by earning a spot on the 2011 InformationWeek 500 list of top technology innovators across America. This prestigious award recognizes Amtrak's innovative use of this mobile technology and the significant value provided to passengers and conductors.

"Amtrak is pleased to be recognized for innovative business uses of technology which
enhances our customer's travel experience and ability for Amtrak's employees to deliver a
higher level of safety and customer service," said Amtrak Acting Chief Information Officer Dee Waddell.

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