Keolis Rolls Out New Commuter Rail App For Riders

It helps passengers locate lost items, and wakes them up if they fall asleep during their commute.

When MBTA officials announced earlier this year that Keolis would take over operations on the Commuter Rail, replacing the former company that had been in charge for more than a decade, they wasted no time getting ready for their July 1 debut.

As part of their efforts to improve the daily rider experience once they finally took the helm, Keolis officials unveiled a new app to help passengers navigate their way along the system, and stay up-to-date with alerts. “Soon after we officially won the contract, we began working with local developers to create this app as part of our customer service program,” said Mac Daniel, a spokesman for Keolis Commuter Services.

The “MBTA Commuter Rail App,” which launched July 1, but was released for the iPhone just this week, is a first-of-its kind development for the system, and is packed with amenities that lets those who rely on the train service regularly to buy tickets, find out train times, and even take a nap without the fear of missing their stop.

Daniel said the app utilizes real-time data to countdown the minutes until a train departs from, or arrives at a station. It also allows users to punch in information about which stop they need to get off at, so if they decide to snooze during their trip to or from work they can be “gently” woken up in time to get off. “Even if the train’s delayed, it will wake you up five or so minutes before your stop,” said Daniel. “It’s pretty unique.”

Other perks embedded within the app include a link to the MBTA’s existing mTicket platform, where riders can purchase their train passes, and information about how much gas and time a rider has saved by opting to hop on the Commuter Rail, instead of driving. The app also includes a tracking system so commuters can watch where their train is headed, how fast it’s traveling, and how many stops remain until their destination. That information is relayed via Google Maps, and can be viewed in real-time.

Daniel said the hope is that riders will download the app and it will become a “real customer service tool” for passengers. He said the app will change and be tweaked based on customer feedback, but that updates are already in the works.

Daniel said Keolis is currently toiling away to enhance the company’s lost and found program by including a function to let riders who lose an item register the property within the app. That way, if another passenger finds it, they can immediately contact customer service agents, who will then reconnect the owner with their missing property. “We could reach out to the passenger and say, ‘hey, some guy found your hat, we are going to give you this information where you can pick it up,’” said Daniel.

Moving ahead, the potential for what they can do with the app will be mostly up to passengers. “We are really just testing the waters, and we needed to start small, but it’s the hope that the app will evolve based on people’s needs,” said Daniel. “We are not going to throw features at them and hope they stick. We hope that riders influence this as we go forward.”


Steve Annear Steve Annear, Digital Writer at Boston Magazine sannear@bostonmagazine.com