Amtrak Acela Express Business Class Washington, D.C.-New York – Review

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The author's seat in the Quiet Car

The author’s seat in the Quiet Car

FLIGHT PLAN

The Amtrak Acela, a service introduced in 2000, is the fastest train in the U.S., capable of attaining speeds of up to 150 mph (240 km/h).

The Acela makes several stops along the way from Union Station in Washington, D.C. to New York’s Pennsylvania Station in Manhattan. These include Baltimore, Maryland; Wilmington, Delaware; Philadelphia, Pennsylvania; Trenton, Iselin and Newark, New Jersey.

The total trip from Washington to New York took two hours and 45 minutes.  By comparison, a typical flight takes less than half the time, at one hour and 20 minutes.

SEAT COMFORT

Seats in Acela Business Class are arranged in a 2-2 configuration.  Most are forward facing but some are arranged around a table so four people can sit and socialize or work together.

Each seat is 23” in width and seat pitch is roughly 42” although it may vary somewhat from row to row.

My seat was in the middle of the Quiet Car, the first car behind the first-class coaches, and passengers are asked by means of a PA announcement, an LED display, and blue banners in the car to refrain from loud conversations and the use of mobile phones. Passengers take the concept of the quiet car quite seriously.  One passenger across the aisle from me was annoyed by the persistent coughing of the passenger next to him that was disturbing his sleep.  He asked her to move and she did.

Quiet Car reminder message

Quiet Car reminder message

There’s ample room in the overhead bins although, when the train is full, such space may become overtaxed.  Seats are not assigned although one’s reservation guarantees one.

Every seat is provided with an electrical outlet and an individual reading lamp.  Seats recline and a footrest contributes to the passenger’s comfort. A pull-out tray table is more than sufficient for work or dining.  Overall, I found them comfortable for working and dining but I think three hours would be my limit for these seats.

IN-FLIGHT SERVICE

Other than going to the Café Car, there is no provision for food service, unlike on the air shuttles, which offer complimentary snacks.    A friendly conductor came by to check tickets and chatted with passengers as he made his rounds.  I had brought a sandwich prepared by my hotel with me and that was more than sufficient for my lunch.  Because there is no limit on bringing larger containers of liquid onto a train, I was also able to bring a bottle of water with me as well.

Perhaps in part to counter the lack of free snacks, Amtrak does offer complimentary Wi-Fi with the Amtrak Connect service.  It worked quite well for the almost three-hour journey and I only lost the connection once while en route.

ARRIVAL

We arrived on schedule at New York’s Penn Station at 5:45 p.m. and a short walk within the terminal took me to the Long Island Railroad that whisked me home.

BOTTOM LINE

Much of Amtrak’s success on this route is reflective of the inconvenience of air travel, both in terms of the time spent traveling and the ability to sit back and be productive while doing so.  Had I chosen to fly, the trip would never have taken place because all flights to and from New York and D.C. had been cancelled.  It’s clear to me that the train may simply be a better way to traverse the Northeast Corridor efficiently.

(Photos: Accura Media Group)

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