Metro

T conductors turn to iPhones for updates

When a commuter rail train is delayed, riders with smartphones often know more about what is happening than their conductors, armed only with ­radios.

Not anymore. Twenty-four conductors, banned by federal and MBTA rules from ­using or even carrying phones, are now armed with Conductor Companions, specially programmed iPhone 4s that cannot send texts or e-mails, download applications, browse the ­Internet, or make calls, except to 911.

Advertisement

But conductors can run a special application that provides train locations, messages from dispatchers, and schedules and track information for the commuter rail and other T lines.

Gillian Wood, chief customer service officer for the company that operates the MBTA’s commuter rail, said the phone is the first of its kind on a US commuter railroad, but resembles conductor tools in Europe. It grew out of conversations between company managers and the conductors’ union that under­scored the communication gap aboard trains.

Get Fast Forward in your inbox:
Forget yesterday's news. Get what you need today in this early-morning email.
Thank you for signing up! Sign up for more newsletters here

Relying on catch-as-catch-can radio chatter means conductors may know the reason their own train has slowed or stopped, but little else. “You might not necessarily know what’s going on 40 miles in front of you,” Wood said.

Ray Toole, a conductor for 21 years, called the device a game-changer. “Everyone’s on the same page immediately,” he said.

The Conductor Companion could allow conductors to shed the groaning binders they lug aboard trains, chock-full of operating regulations, customer service bulletins, and ­other memos and rules issued by government agencies and rail companies that oversee or share the track. All of that is being loaded onto the phones in searchable form.

Advertisement

The pilot program is divided between North and South Station conductors and will be evaluated after three months for potential expansion to all conductors.

The Massachusetts Bay Commuter Railroad Co., vying to retain a contract that pays nearly $300 million a year, said it spent about $100,000 on the phones and the appli­cation, created by the Boston app development firm Raizlabs.

ERIC MOSKOWITZ

Loading comments...
You're reading  1 of 5 free articles.
Get UNLIMITED access for only 99¢ per week Subscribe Now >
You're reading1 of 5 free articles.Keep scrolling to see more articles recomended for you Subscribe now
We hope you've enjoyed your 5 free articles.
Continue reading by subscribing to Globe.com for just 99¢.
 Already a member? Log in Home
Subscriber Log In

We hope you've enjoyed your 5 free articles'

Stay informed with unlimited access to Boston’s trusted news source.

  • High-quality journalism from the region’s largest newsroom
  • Convenient access across all of your devices
  • Today’s Headlines daily newsletter
  • Subscriber-only access to exclusive offers, events, contests, eBooks, and more
  • Less than 25¢ a week
Marketing image of BostonGlobe.com
Marketing image of BostonGlobe.com
Already a subscriber?
Your city. Your stories. Your Globe.
Yours FREE for two weeks.
Enjoy free unlimited access to Globe.com for the next two weeks.
Limited time only - No credit card required!
BostonGlobe.com complimentary digital access has been provided to you, without a subscription, for free starting today and ending in 14 days. After the free trial period, your free BostonGlobe.com digital access will stop immediately unless you sign up for BostonGlobe.com digital subscription. Current print and digital subscribers are not eligible for the free trial.
Thanks & Welcome to Globe.com
You now have unlimited access for the next two weeks.
BostonGlobe.com complimentary digital access has been provided to you, without a subscription, for free starting today and ending in 14 days. After the free trial period, your free BostonGlobe.com digital access will stop immediately unless you sign up for BostonGlobe.com digital subscription. Current print and digital subscribers are not eligible for the free trial.