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Amtrak conductors to "punch your ticket" using iPhones

Here's a modern twist on a time-honored tradition for train travelers. Since last fall, Amtrak has been training conductors to use an iOS device to scan passenger tickets on some selected routes, including Boston to Portland, Maine, and San Jose to Sacramento, California.

According to the New York Times, 1700 conductors will be using the new system -- which combines an iPhone with a custom hardware sled for receipt printing -- across the country by late summer. The Amtrak tool was developed in part by Seattle's Übermind agency, which was acquired by the consulting arm of Deloitte at the start of 2012.

Passengers will still be able to print their tickets, but alternatively they can show a 2D barcode on their mobile phone screens, eliminating paper completely. This is similar to Fandango's app for movies or air travel boarding pass apps.

This is a big switch from the classic hole puncher the trains have been using since, well, forever. Where I lived there weren't a lot of useful train routes the family could take, but I'm always reminded of that old chilling Twilight Zone episode where passenger James Daly gets on a train and heads to a simpler world when his ticket is punched for Willoughby. That episode kept me off trains for a long time. This new ticket tech might get me back on one.



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Here's a modern twist on a time-honored tradition for train travelers. Since last fall, Amtrak has been training conductors to use an...