Amtrak Is Now Using GPS – Much to Traveler Delight!

amtrak_gps_newsIf you rely on Amtrak trains to get you to work, business meetings, or the latest theater production in a nearby city, you’ll love the newest offering that brings the power of Google Maps to the mix. Amtrak has announced a handy interactive map that shows riders in real time where any train is at any point in time, all over the US.

All 300 of the company’s trains will be displayed on the map, along with the estimated arrival time at any station stops – and it’s all made possible by the GPS trackers installed on the trains!

How It Works

Amtrak has embedded sensors directly onto the train tracks, and each time a train passes by the sensors, the GPS location data is transmitted to the GPS tracker on board each train. The GPS tracker then relays the location data to the Google Maps Engine as well as station data from Amtrak’s own content management system.

This allows riders to either look for a specific train by name or train number on the application via tablet, smartphone, or desktop. Prior to the addition of the GPS trackers, the only data riders could receive about the trains was a list of estimated arrival times and the status of each train (whether they were running late or not.) This will step up Amtrak’s game, bringing riders an accurate picture of what time they need to be at the station to catch the train.

Amtrak is putting the cloud to use, as that is where Google stores the map data provided by the GPS trackers. The creative director of Amtrak’s e-commerce, Steve Alexander, spoke about the partnership with Google on Google’s Official Enterprise Blog, calling their cloud platform “reliable.”

Value For Customers

This is a victory for anyone choosing to ride one of Amtrak’s trains. The ‘Google Enterprise Blog’ states that the second most common activity on the Amtrak website is checking the status of trains, with purchasing tickets coming in first. It makes sense, kind of like checking on the status of a flight prior to leaving for the airport. You don’t want to arrive at the station only to find your train is delayed by an hour. It also provides an opportunity to give your boss a more definitive answer when he asks when you expect to arrive to the big meeting.

You can head to the Amtrak train locator to view all trains across the US and their location. Hovering the mouse over one of the trains on the map produces a slick pop up window that displays the status of the train (is it early, is it late, when will it arrive to the next station.)

The Power Of The Cloud

Relying on the Google Maps Engine means Amtrak doesn’t need to expend additional funds to cover the expense of storing all of that real time data being pushed from the GPS trackers on board their trains. All Amtrak’s e-commerce team needs to worry about is making easy to read maps that customers will be able to follow.

And who knows what these maps will provide customers in the future. The blog post points out they’re already seeing the potential of the maps in other areas such as local transit data, tourist attractions along the train routes, and restaurants. Amtrak aims to please customers, and hope they appreciate the added value of so much useful information. It will make them a one-stop travel shop of sorts, and they’re betting this entices more customers to ride with them.

Do you rely on Amtrak? What do you think about this new service?