Amtrak has rolled out new e-ticketing nationwide. No more will you need to buy your ticket from a conductor or have it sent to you. With the new system, you can just print out your ticket at home or show the conductor your phone with the e-mail from Amtrak and you are all set.
Here's how it works:
1. Purchase your eticket, either on the web (amtrak.com), by phone (1-800-USA-RAIL) or on the amtrak smartphone app. Your barcode will be e-mailed to you.
2. Print your barcode anywhere and bring it with you. If you smartphone can open a pdf, you can simply present the conductor the barcode on the screen without printing it. If you loose it, you can print it again.
The new system enables a number of beneifts. The principal one is there is no need to fuss over obtaining a physical ticket in advance and if your plans change, you can make changes over the phone or one the web without needing to worry about returning the physical ticket.
There is one caution you need to know about: Do not no-show. The new policy is that your entire reservation will be canceled if you no-show. Including connecting trains and your return trip. That means if your plans change for any reason call Amtrak and get that change reflected in your reservation.
What means no-showing? Anything that causes your ticket not to be collected after the train is on it's way out of the station that you are booked from. If you miss the train, call Amtrak. If you decide to get on at a station further down the line, call Amtrak. And make sure you aren't in the bathroom or something when the conductor comes around so you make sure you get counted.
The reason for this new policy is that now, thanks to electronic ticket collection, Amtrak can keep track in real time if a seat that had been sold is now empty -- so it can resell the seat to passengers that might board at stations further down the line. This is good -- there is no sense denying passage to people when you have empty seats that have been made available.
It is still possible to purchase tickets from Amtrak stations, travel agencies and from the conductor if you want to use cash or have some other special circumstance. You still need to make an advance reservation (say "agent" on the phone and make arrangements with the person who answers.)
Unlike before, you will now have a single bar code for the entire reservation, whether it's a simple one way, round trip or multi-segment.
If you have a previously issued paper ticket, it remains valid for travel.