MBTA Conductors receive iPhones to keep passengers informed

Posted on April 4, 2016

A Keolis representative training a conductor on how to use an iPhone programmed by Keolis. Photo courtesy of Keolis Commuter Services.
A Keolis representative training a conductor on how to use an iPhone programmed by Keolis. Photo courtesy of Keolis Commuter Services.
Keolis Commuter Services, which operates MBTA Commuter Rail, is issuing more than 400 iPhones to its conductors and assistant conductors. The smartphones will give them direct access to real-time data to keep passengers better informed about the status of the commuter rail system.

The iPhones are programmed with apps specially designed by Keolis with data on schedules, on-time performance, service disruptions and other information of importance to commuter rail passengers. These specialized handheld devices cannot be used to access the Internet, email or non-Keolis apps. While conductors can use the devices for calling pre-programmed emergency numbers, they cannot be used for ordinary phone calls.

The new conductor apps are the latest in a series of technology initiatives Keolis has implemented to improve communications for passengers.

“For safety reasons, our on-board staff are not permitted to use their handheld devices while on duty. As a result, our passengers, nearly all of whom carry smartphones, sometimes knew about incidents or issues before our conductors did, creating frustration for both sides,” said Ric Salvatici, chief information officer for Keolis Commuter Services. “Our goal with this initiative is to insure our teams have the information they need to keep passengers accurately informed about what is going in a more timely manner.” 

The new devices and apps were tested by a group of 10 conductors during a month-long period. The devices will be distributed over the next two days at North and South stations, with Keolis’ technology partner Verizon providing conductors with training on how to use them.

Updates to this new system will give conductors digital access to manuals and bulletins, and enable them to complete daily reports more easily while reducing the use of paper.

Keolis’ digitization initiatives include the creation of a dedicated app that tracks on-time performance of commuter rail trains.

Other projects include the use of tablets on-site by maintenance teams, an app that allows commuter rail personnel to share information and better manage system incidents, and the launch of the Passenger Information Center, which brought all passenger communications under one umbrella.

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