Remember when it felt weird to print your airline boarding pass and walk around with a plain old 8x11 sheet of paper instead of an official-looking ticket? Even folded, it just didn't feel the same. But now that Amtrak is going the same route as the airlines, ticket-wise, this should be old hat. That's right: Amtrak is letting travelers print eTickets for all trains. In fact, you don't even need to print your eTicket: you can simply display it on your smartphone
ETickets will have several benefits over old-school tickets. For one thing, you can buy your ticket online (even en route to the station, with a smartphone or other mobile device) and then skip the ticket desk. Also, you can reprint your ticket if you lose it. And, as we mentioned, you don't even need to print the ticket, technically. The conductor can view the ticket (complete with a QR
code) on your smartphone. Amtrak has a free iPhone app in the iTunes Store
; an Amtrak spokesperson tells us that customers with other types of smartphones can open the eTicket PDF on their phones.
Improving customer service isn't the only reason Amtrak
likes the eTicket program. It points to more efficient financial reporting and passenger security: eTicketing makes it easier for Amtrak to determine who is on the train.
Until now, the eTickets have been piloted on only a handful of routes. With this announcement, Amtrak opens the program to any Amtrak train in the country, including long-distance routes and the heavily-traveled Northeast Corridor.