Commuter rail unveils ‘Conductor Companion’ mobile app program

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NICOLAUS CZARNECKI/METRO

Massachusetts’ transportation system is once again leading the way for transit technology.

The Massachusetts Bay Commuter Railroad Company today announced the launch of the “Conductor Companion” pilot program, mobile device application that allows conductors on the MBTA commuter rail system to get real-time information about service.

The program is the first of its kind to be used by the MBCRC. It’s purpose is to improve the customer experience.

“The speed of technology today demands an application that gives conductors the
information they need and that customers want,” said Gillian Wood, MBCR’s chief
customer service officer.

“For the first time on any commuter rail system in the United States, conductors will have the same, if not better, access to information about service, data that customers already obtain from their portable devices.”

MBCR, which fully funded the “Conductor Companion” program, will provide 24 conductors – 12 working on service traveling to and from North Station and 12 working trains traveling to and from South Station – with modified iPhones that are programmed with MBCR’s “Conductor Companion” application.

The technology will feed real-time service information into the palm of a conductor’s hand as the application’s satellite function will show the speed, exact location and track assignment of every train on the commuter rail system.

The pilot program, which will run for 90 days, will allow both conductors and riders to provide feedback to MBCR about their experience with the specialized devices and application. MBCR intends to unveil “Conductor Companion” for more than 200 other conductors later in the year.

“The program leverages the power of mobile technology and will improve the quality of information that our customers receive,” said MBCR General Manager Hugh Kiley. “MBCR crews will now be able to better communicate delays, service interruptions and other information directly to customers as events unfold.”

The “Conductor Companion” was designed to comply with Federal Railroad Administration (FRA) regulations and MBTA policies that prohibit the use of mobile telecommunication – cell phone, texting, and emailing – during work shifts by personnel who work in safety sensitive positions while ensuring the ability of conductors to access important information about the service.

All Conductor Companion devices are designed without traditional cellular, text message,
and email functions. Emergency communication – 911 – is the only available outbound
communication function on each device.

In addition to the real-time Conductor Companion application, the device also stores FRA regulations, operating procedure manuals, and other directives. These documents, which conductors must carry with them on all train service assignments under federal rules, typically are stored in binders that contain several hundred pages.


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