What’s Wrong with Amtrak’s Acela Express Train
Avatar_160_hilary
Hilary Stockton
Google+

My Award Booking Service helps travelers book first class and business class with miles and points. As an independent affiliate of Cadence, I also have access to Virtuoso, Four Seasons Preferred Partner, Peninsula Hotels PenClub, Dorchester Diamond Club, Ritz-Carlton STARS, Starwood Luxury Privileges, Rocco Forte and other 5-star hotel partners, so I can book, for no extra cost, your perfect luxury hotel or luxury cruise with VIP amenities not available anywhere else. Become a client and upgrade your stay!

GOT A BLOG POST IDEA?
Have a travel question we haven't covered yet? Want to share your secrets for traveling well for less?

Overpriced for what it is: Acela "Express"

 

Having applauded earlier in the week Starwood, whose program has worked well for me to date, today I'll turn to one that I'm decidedly less enthusiastic about: Amtrak's Acela trains. No doubt I’ll be in the minority on this one, but for some time I’ve disliked the Acela "Express," the supposedly high speed trains with service that connects Washington DC to Boston via Baltimore, Philadelphia and New York. Yes, it’s obviously faster than local train service and there’s the convenience of departing and arriving in the city center instead of going to the airport. But hear me out, perhaps some of these gripes resonate with you as well:

1.       You want me to pay what?

While it is possible to buy lower priced seats by planning your trip far enough in advance, the operative word is lower—these are still not cheap, and they’ll be at a time you definitely don’t want to be at the station—a 6:30am train anyone? You’ll almost always be able to get a cheaper ticket, at a better time, flying on, say, JetBlue. Umm, it’s no wonder the Acela is one of the few Amtrak trains to earn a profit and that the Acela lines generate more than half of Amtrak’s revenue.

 

2.       This is high speed?

If you’ve ridden on a true high speed train such as Japan’s bullet train, the Shinkansen, or France’s TGV, you’ll be sorely disappointed with the Acela’s speed.  The highest speed may be 150 mph, but the average is only 75 mph; compare that to the TGV and Shinkansen trains’ average speed of ~170 mph.

 

3.       How about real recline for these seats?

While recline is not so much an issue for a flight of an hour or so, it becomes more of an issue on a train ride of 3 or more hours—why such limited recline for what are ostensibly business class seats?

 

4.       Forget a smooth ride, resign yourself to looking drunk as you walk around

I well remember my first time riding on a Shinkansen train and marveling that it wasn’t much different from walking down the hall—virtually completely still. In contrast, walking around the Acela makes me queasy, and most everyone has a grim expression as they hang on for dear life while making the treacherous journey to the café car or bathroom.

 

5.       Can’t at least your Wi-Fi be fast?

Seriously, what is the point of free Wi-Fi if it crawls at a snail’s pace? May as well forget getting work done that requires snappy connectivity. Bring a book.

 

6.       Bring your own food. Consider yourself warned.

It’s as if they tried to marry the worst of both: food for purchase, with the quality of free airline food. Even outsourcing it to Starbucks would be an improvement—at least there would be good oatmeal cookies and halfway decent coffee then. In the meantime, I recommend packing your own sandwich and fruit, or grabbing something from the nearest Whole Foods before you board.

 

Tired of paying ridiculous prices for fares around Thanksgiving time, I decided to plan early for a change. Acela’s lowest price is $99 each way, departing NYC Wednesday 11/23 and returning Saturday 11/26, for a total of $198.

JetBlue, meanwhile, has a low fare of $49 each way, for a total of $119.40 including taxes. Saved about $80 and about an hour in transit time, even including getting to the airport and security, and avoid queasiness entirely.

How about you? If you do any travel involving DC/NYC/Boston: Do you prefer the Acela or flying?

If you enjoyed this, please follow TravelSort on Twitter or become a Member to be alerted to new posts.

Photo: cliff1066

  • |
  • Print
    print |
Related Articles
Square_chase_refer_a_friend-earn_50000_points_
2/27/2015
Chase Refer a Friend is back: earn up to 50,000 points for referring family and friends to the Chase Sapphire Preferred and other Chase cards. You'll earn 5000 points for each successful referral, up to a maximum of 50,000 points...
Square_top_2015_mandarin_oriental_3rd_night_free_offers-mandarin_oriental_bodrum
2/26/2015
Mandarin Oriental has some great 3rd night free and 4th night free offers available at several hotels in Bangkok, Bodrum (Turkey), Taipei, Prague, NYC, Paris, and Barcelona now through early spring. Along with Aman Resorts, Four Seasons and Peninsula Hotels,...
Comments
Leave a Comment
Comment
Facebook-logo
Get Free Email Blog Updates
Popular Articles
Square_discounted_united_partner_business_class_awards_to_europe-fly_swiss_business_class
12/5/2014
There are discounted United partner business class awards to Europe and Maldives / Central Asia through March 2015, per Dan. This is likely a glitch and won't last long, so if you're planning award travel to Europe through March 2015...
Square_british_airways_new_first_class_on_787-900-seat_and_how_experience_should_improve
12/1/2014
  British Airways' New First Class Seat will be on its 787-9 Dreamliner launching next year, in 2015, but the details are top secret. The Financial Times reports that "a single, top-secret prototype of the product BA hopes will secure its status...
Square_cathay_pacific_new_regional_business_class_review
12/3/2014
This Cathay Pacific New Regional Business Class Review is part of a trip report including Qantas First Class, British Airways Business Class, Japan Airlines Business Class, and luxury hotels and dining in London, Dubai, and Hong Kong.  For the previous posts, please see:...
Square_50k_us_airways_mastercard_signup_bonus_offer
12/4/2014
  There's a 50K US Airways MasterCard signup bonus offer now available as a public offer, so I've updated the Best Travel Credit Cards page with it. Previously, there were some reports of targeted 50K Dividend Miles offers, but this...
Square_review-jal_sky_suite_business_class_review-window_vs_aisle_sky_suite
12/11/2014
  This Japan Airlines (JAL ) Sky Suite Business Class Review from Tokyo NRT to New York JFK on a 777 is part of a trip report including Qantas First Class, British Airways Business Class, Cathay Pacific Business Class, and luxury hotels and...
Square_interlining_baggage_on_separate_tickets-united_baggage_policy-american_baggage_policy
12/5/2014
  Can you check through baggage on separate tickets? What are the baggage policies for United, American, Delta, and Alaska when you're booked on separate tickets? Baggage interline agreements are only part of the equation, since even if an airline...
Square_upgrade_to_business_class_on_etihad_flight
12/26/2014
Can AAdvantage miles be used to upgrade Etihad or oneworld partner flights? How can you upgrade an Etihad economy flight with miles? A TravelSort reader writes "We got in on the super cheap Etihad airfare today...We are flying out of...
Square_travel_credit_cards-_whats_in_my_wallet_now
1/2/2015
  How We Earned 1 Million Miles and Points This Year prompted some readers to ask which travel credit cards I have in my wallet now, which I plan to cancel, and strategy for new cards in 2015. It's been over...
Square_lounge_review-japan_airlines_jal_business_class_lounge_tokyo_narita-first_floor_flowers_and_seating
12/7/2014
This Japan Airlines Business Class Lounge Review, Tokyo Narita Airport is part of a trip report including Qantas First Class, British Airways Business Class, Japan Airlines Business Class, and luxury hotels and dining in London, Dubai, and Hong Kong.  For the previous...
Square_review-asiana_first_class_suite-closed_suite_doors
12/19/2014
  This Asiana First Class Suite Review is part of a trip report covering luxury travel in northern Thailand and Siem Reap, Cambodia. For the prior post on JFK lounge access when flying Asiana First Class, please see SWISS Lounge JFK...