Is Acela (Amtrak) service worth it?

Questions on how we spend our money and our time - consumer goods and services, home and vehicle, leisure and recreational activities
Post Reply
User avatar
Topic Author
catdude
Posts: 1768
Joined: Mon Jul 16, 2007 8:11 pm
Location: Central Oregon

Is Acela (Amtrak) service worth it?

Post by catdude » Thu Jan 24, 2019 11:04 pm

Hi Bogleheads -

As I've mentioned in a couple recent threads, I'm planning some travel this spring along the U.S. Eastern seaboard. I need to make several reservations on Amtrak. Acela service is available on these routes. It's about 50 - 90% more expensive than regular Amtrak service. In your opinion, is Acela worth the premium? My inclination, being a Boglehead, is to go with the less expensive alternative, but I could be persuaded to spend a few more bucks if it's worth it...
catdude | | "As much as cats fight, there always seems to be plenty of kittens." (Abraham Lincoln)

InvisibleAerobar
Posts: 357
Joined: Mon Jan 15, 2018 12:33 pm

Re: Is Acela (Amtrak) service worth it?

Post by InvisibleAerobar » Thu Jan 24, 2019 11:23 pm

catdude wrote:
Thu Jan 24, 2019 11:04 pm
Hi Bogleheads -

As I've mentioned in a couple recent threads, I'm planning some travel this spring along the U.S. Eastern seaboard. I need to make several reservations on Amtrak. Acela service is available on these routes. It's about 50 - 90% more expensive than regular Amtrak service. In your opinion, is Acela worth the premium? My inclination, being a Boglehead, is to go with the less expensive alternative, but I could be persuaded to spend a few more bucks if it's worth it...
absolutely not worth it; from New Haven to Philly, it may save you 30 minutes, and that's about it

The regular Amtrak service is quite nice. I wish they had this service to places outside of the Northeast Corridor.

btw, if you want to save even more money, you could always take the commuter rail (MetroNorth to Grand Central, walk/subway to Penn Station, NJ transit to Trenton, and finally SEPTA to Philly). It's probably not all that much cheaper, if you buy Amtrak in advance

User avatar
nisiprius
Advisory Board
Posts: 39725
Joined: Thu Jul 26, 2007 9:33 am
Location: The terrestrial, globular, planetary hunk of matter, flattened at the poles, is my abode.--O. Henry

Re: Is Acela (Amtrak) service worth it?

Post by nisiprius » Thu Jan 24, 2019 11:25 pm

I only know the route between Boston and Washington. As far as I can tell, the only place where the Acela really shows its speed is between Route 128 station and Providence, Rhode Island, in which you do about 35 miles in about 20 minutes. It is breathtaking and almost unbelievable. The ride is very smooth and not very different from it is at 60 mph and you do not have that much of a sense of speed except that you get to Providence in what seems like an impossibly short time.

Everything else, well, it's apparently limited by the tracks. Typically you will get at least one or two pokey stretches where the trains seems to be putt-putting along at fifteen or twenty miles an hour through urban settings, and the Acela is just as pokey as the Northeast Regional.

You can check the schedules for yourself, but all in all the "Northeast regional" service is pretty good. The differences in speed and comfort are not all that great. The Acela makes fewer stops and with one thing and another it does get you there a good bit faster. The Notheast regional trains are good for comfort, and you get an AC outlet in the window seat, and all that stuff...

Food is awful in both. Don't expect any fine dining experience. You'll get microwaved hamburgers and refrigerated sandwiches at a high price... and they often run out of items.
Annual income twenty pounds, annual expenditure nineteen nineteen and six, result happiness; Annual income twenty pounds, annual expenditure twenty pounds ought and six, result misery.

revert
Posts: 65
Joined: Fri Jun 02, 2017 9:35 pm

Re: Is Acela (Amtrak) service worth it?

Post by revert » Thu Jan 24, 2019 11:35 pm

It’s not worth it unless someone else is footing the bill. At full speed the Acela tilts a fair amount around corners, but much of that track runs parallel to normal Metro North trains - so top speed is limited to keep from smacking the other trains.

Depending on the route it may save you an hour. It also may be a slightly different crowd since it gets more business travelers, but overall they’re more similar than different. I’d save the money.

criticalmass
Posts: 1402
Joined: Wed Feb 12, 2014 10:58 pm

Re: Is Acela (Amtrak) service worth it?

Post by criticalmass » Thu Jan 24, 2019 11:55 pm

catdude wrote:
Thu Jan 24, 2019 11:04 pm
Hi Bogleheads -

As I've mentioned in a couple recent threads, I'm planning some travel this spring along the U.S. Eastern seaboard. I need to make several reservations on Amtrak. Acela service is available on these routes. It's about 50 - 90% more expensive than regular Amtrak service. In your opinion, is Acela worth the premium? My inclination, being a Boglehead, is to go with the less expensive alternative, but I could be persuaded to spend a few more bucks if it's worth it...
I'll offer an contrary opinion. If you really want a nicer train experience that is unique in the USA, go with the Acela. But check the times and promotions when you can save significantly from peak pricing. If you just care about going (a little bit) faster, than you may not find it a good value for that. The Acela trainsets are nicer than the standard Amtrak coaches, although these are getting old now--Acela has been in service since 2000 on the original trains. A newer generation is now in procurement/production, but still two years away from revenue service.

For pure speed, Acela is hampered by the technical/environmental issues mentioned earlier. Boston (Westwood) to Providence has straight tracks and brand new (well only two decades old-but still brand new in train years) catenary with automatic tensioning. Between Providence RI and Pennsylvania Station-NYC, speeds are hampered by curving track to match the coast geography and dense commuter traffic. Between NYC and Philadelphia, the tracks are much straighter, but faster speeds are hampered by old catenary infrastructure, in some cases over 80 years old dating to the Pennsylvania railroad era. Much of this catenary is actively being upgraded right now, and should be on line later this year. Trains will be able to go 160 mph there, or a bit faster than the current fastest stretch between suburban Boston and Providence. It is interesting to compare the fast train schedules New York-Washington from the Pennsylvania Railroad era to today's Amtrak.

Coming from France, Acela is very comfortable, but it needs to be because you're sitting in it for a very long time. :) But you won't get this experience elsewhere in the USA.

Ragnoth
Posts: 223
Joined: Sat Sep 17, 2016 8:10 am
Location: New York

Re: Is Acela (Amtrak) service worth it?

Post by Ragnoth » Fri Jan 25, 2019 12:20 am

I take the train from NYC to Boston a few times a year.

The difference in speed is pretty negligible... maybe 3.5 hours v. 4 hours on the leg I take. But you are losing most of the day regardless, especially if you factor in transit time to and from the train stations. You should check your route and see what the difference is on your proposed trips.

The normal northeast regional has decent seats, outlets, food (but you are better off bringing your own salad/sandwich/tallboy), and facilities. Unless you are travelling around the holiday or at big "rush" times (think Friday and Sunday evenings), chances are good you will get two seats to yourself and can spread out anyway. The physical seats are a little nicer on the Acela, but nothing about it would justify a 40% difference in my opinion (I usually pick based on departure times, or spring for the Acela is the price difference is within ~$20-30).

BigoteGato
Posts: 46
Joined: Fri Mar 11, 2016 3:05 pm

Re: Is Acela (Amtrak) service worth it?

Post by BigoteGato » Fri Jan 25, 2019 2:06 am

I travel to DC frequently from the NJ area. Time gain is negligible and the cost is way higher. It’s absolutely not worth it to me (even if someone else pays, it feels wasteful).
BG

02nz
Posts: 2984
Joined: Wed Feb 21, 2018 3:17 pm

Re: Is Acela (Amtrak) service worth it?

Post by 02nz » Fri Jan 25, 2019 2:18 am

nisiprius wrote:
Thu Jan 24, 2019 11:25 pm
in which you do about 35 miles in about 20 minutes. It is breathtaking and almost unbelievable.
Ah, the wonders of high-speed rail in America!

Nisiprius, if you find Acela "almost unbelievable" at 105 mph, you really need to experience France's TGV (on which Acela is based) or Germany's ICE, which go up to about 185 mph. Or the maglev in Shanghai, which does 268 mph.

To answer OP's question, no Acela isn't worth it, there's little speed advantage because very little of the track has been modernized to permit high-speed operation.

Afty
Posts: 1122
Joined: Sun Sep 07, 2014 5:31 pm

Re: Is Acela (Amtrak) service worth it?

Post by Afty » Fri Jan 25, 2019 3:30 am

I’ve taken Amtrak from NYC to Boston a couple times, once on Acela and once on the regular NE Corridor service. Acela was absolutely not worth the extra cost. It’s only slightly faster and any difference in comfort is negligible.

InvisibleAerobar
Posts: 357
Joined: Mon Jan 15, 2018 12:33 pm

Re: Is Acela (Amtrak) service worth it?

Post by InvisibleAerobar » Fri Jan 25, 2019 5:28 am

02nz wrote:
Fri Jan 25, 2019 2:18 am
nisiprius wrote:
Thu Jan 24, 2019 11:25 pm
in which you do about 35 miles in about 20 minutes. It is breathtaking and almost unbelievable.
Ah, the wonders of high-speed rail in America!

Nisiprius, if you find Acela "almost unbelievable" at 105 mph, you really need to experience France's TGV (on which Acela is based) or Germany's ICE, which go up to about 185 mph. Or the maglev in Shanghai, which does 268 mph.

To answer OP's question, no Acela isn't worth it, there's little speed advantage because very little of the track has been modernized to permit high-speed operation.
That’s what apparently passes for “high-speed rail” these days. The real irony is that there was a revenue generating train service in the U.S., where the trains on the service averaged 100 mph. This was the Hiawatha service btwn Chicago and Milwaukee back in the 1930s, powered by a steam locomotive, no less

3-20Characters
Posts: 697
Joined: Tue Jun 19, 2018 2:20 pm

Re: Is Acela (Amtrak) service worth it?

Post by 3-20Characters » Fri Jan 25, 2019 5:47 am

Here is a detailed explanation of why Acela can’t achieve anywhere near optimal speeds. Rather nuanced.

https://www.quora.com/What-stops-Amtrak ... d-New-York

Jack FFR1846
Posts: 10771
Joined: Tue Dec 31, 2013 7:05 am
Location: 26 miles, 385 yards west of Copley Square

Re: Is Acela (Amtrak) service worth it?

Post by Jack FFR1846 » Fri Jan 25, 2019 7:14 am

Spring for first class if you're going late at night. This avoids all the drunk, obnoxious people pouring out of the bars from about NYC to DC.
Bogle: Smart Beta is stupid

User avatar
AtlasShrugged?
Posts: 699
Joined: Wed Jul 15, 2015 6:08 pm

Re: Is Acela (Amtrak) service worth it?

Post by AtlasShrugged? » Fri Jan 25, 2019 7:29 am

catdude....You asked:
In your opinion, is Acela worth the premium?
Answer: No
“If you don't know, the thing to do is not to get scared, but to learn.”

Admiral
Posts: 2593
Joined: Mon Oct 27, 2014 12:35 pm

Re: Is Acela (Amtrak) service worth it?

Post by Admiral » Fri Jan 25, 2019 7:41 am

Keep in mind one big difference:

Acela guarantees you a seat. Regular trains do not. Typically this is not a problem, but I have been on very crowded NE Corridor trains that were essentially full for part of the trip. If you have multiple people in your group, this may be an issue. Traveling at off hours/days you will be fine.

When I pay, I use regular train service. When the office pays, I use Acela. I actually prefer the seats on the regular trains.

Acela b/w Philly and NY is an absolute rip off. Philly to DC is a bit better.

THY4373
Posts: 1196
Joined: Thu Mar 22, 2012 3:17 pm

Re: Is Acela (Amtrak) service worth it?

Post by THY4373 » Fri Jan 25, 2019 8:53 am

I have traveled on both the NE Regional and Acela. I mostly do the Regional even when others are paying because I am often starting/ending south of DC and the Acela terminates in DC and changing trains kills any time savings. As others have noted there isn't a major difference in timing for the most part especially on the shorter legs. I do find upgrading to business on the Regional sometimes worth it depending on price difference. The car tends to be a lot quieter, less crowded and you get free soft drinks.

The one bit of advice I haven't seen yet is there are also long haul trains running on the NE corridor and I would avoid those particularly if going from south to north because they can be delayed many hours (most start in Florida when headed north).

And yes the Acela is a poor substitute for real high speed trains I have traveled on in Europe and Japan.

criticalmass
Posts: 1402
Joined: Wed Feb 12, 2014 10:58 pm

Re: Is Acela (Amtrak) service worth it?

Post by criticalmass » Fri Jan 25, 2019 9:41 am

InvisibleAerobar wrote:
Fri Jan 25, 2019 5:28 am
02nz wrote:
Fri Jan 25, 2019 2:18 am
nisiprius wrote:
Thu Jan 24, 2019 11:25 pm
in which you do about 35 miles in about 20 minutes. It is breathtaking and almost unbelievable.
Ah, the wonders of high-speed rail in America!

Nisiprius, if you find Acela "almost unbelievable" at 105 mph, you really need to experience France's TGV (on which Acela is based) or Germany's ICE, which go up to about 185 mph. Or the maglev in Shanghai, which does 268 mph.

To answer OP's question, no Acela isn't worth it, there's little speed advantage because very little of the track has been modernized to permit high-speed operation.
That’s what apparently passes for “high-speed rail” these days. The real irony is that there was a revenue generating train service in the U.S., where the trains on the service averaged 100 mph. This was the Hiawatha service btwn Chicago and Milwaukee back in the 1930s, powered by a steam locomotive, no less
Acela currently rolls at 150 mph, not 105 mph, between Boston and Providence. After the catenary improvements are completed this year, speeds on the NYC-Philadelphia stretch will increase to 160 mph.
Last edited by criticalmass on Fri Jan 25, 2019 9:42 am, edited 1 time in total.

User avatar
GoldStar
Posts: 957
Joined: Wed May 23, 2018 10:59 am

Re: Is Acela (Amtrak) service worth it?

Post by GoldStar » Fri Jan 25, 2019 9:42 am

nisiprius wrote:
Thu Jan 24, 2019 11:25 pm
I only know the route between Boston and Washington. As far as I can tell, the only place where the Acela really shows its speed is between Route 128 station and Providence, Rhode Island, in which you do about 35 miles in about 20 minutes. It is breathtaking and almost unbelievable. The ride is very smooth and not very different from it is at 60 mph and you do not have that much of a sense of speed except that you get to Providence in what seems like an impossibly short time.

Everything else, well, it's apparently limited by the tracks. Typically you will get at least one or two pokey stretches where the trains seems to be putt-putting along at fifteen or twenty miles an hour through urban settings, and the Acela is just as pokey as the Northeast Regional.

You can check the schedules for yourself, but all in all the "Northeast regional" service is pretty good. The differences in speed and comfort are not all that great. The Acela makes fewer stops and with one thing and another it does get you there a good bit faster. The Notheast regional trains are good for comfort, and you get an AC outlet in the window seat, and all that stuff...

Food is awful in both. Don't expect any fine dining experience. You'll get microwaved hamburgers and refrigerated sandwiches at a high price... and they often run out of items.
Last I looked - the big savings in time are between the Acela Express and non Express / Amtrak. There are many stations that are skipped on the Acela Express trains and this is where the real time savings are. You can look at time tables to see what the time saving are - the time savings are in not having to stop at all the smaller stations versus the speed difference of the train as far as I recall.

criticalmass
Posts: 1402
Joined: Wed Feb 12, 2014 10:58 pm

Re: Is Acela (Amtrak) service worth it?

Post by criticalmass » Fri Jan 25, 2019 9:44 am

GoldStar wrote:
Fri Jan 25, 2019 9:42 am
nisiprius wrote:
Thu Jan 24, 2019 11:25 pm
I only know the route between Boston and Washington. As far as I can tell, the only place where the Acela really shows its speed is between Route 128 station and Providence, Rhode Island, in which you do about 35 miles in about 20 minutes. It is breathtaking and almost unbelievable. The ride is very smooth and not very different from it is at 60 mph and you do not have that much of a sense of speed except that you get to Providence in what seems like an impossibly short time.

Everything else, well, it's apparently limited by the tracks. Typically you will get at least one or two pokey stretches where the trains seems to be putt-putting along at fifteen or twenty miles an hour through urban settings, and the Acela is just as pokey as the Northeast Regional.

You can check the schedules for yourself, but all in all the "Northeast regional" service is pretty good. The differences in speed and comfort are not all that great. The Acela makes fewer stops and with one thing and another it does get you there a good bit faster. The Notheast regional trains are good for comfort, and you get an AC outlet in the window seat, and all that stuff...

Food is awful in both. Don't expect any fine dining experience. You'll get microwaved hamburgers and refrigerated sandwiches at a high price... and they often run out of items.
Last I looked - the big savings in time are between the Acela Express and non Express / Amtrak. There are many stations that are skipped on the Acela Express trains and this is where the real time savings are. You can look at time tables to see what the time saving are - the time savings are in not having to stop at all the smaller stations versus the speed difference of the train as far as I recall.
Time savings depends on the specific portion of the NEC you are traveling on. For example, between Boston and Providence, Acela is substantially faster. In metropolitan New York where the tracks are busy with commuter trains, the difference is much smaller. Yes, the limited schedule improves times considerably. But I don't choose Acela just for the time savings.

User avatar
GoldStar
Posts: 957
Joined: Wed May 23, 2018 10:59 am

Re: Is Acela (Amtrak) service worth it?

Post by GoldStar » Fri Jan 25, 2019 9:46 am

criticalmass wrote:
Fri Jan 25, 2019 9:44 am
GoldStar wrote:
Fri Jan 25, 2019 9:42 am
nisiprius wrote:
Thu Jan 24, 2019 11:25 pm
I only know the route between Boston and Washington. As far as I can tell, the only place where the Acela really shows its speed is between Route 128 station and Providence, Rhode Island, in which you do about 35 miles in about 20 minutes. It is breathtaking and almost unbelievable. The ride is very smooth and not very different from it is at 60 mph and you do not have that much of a sense of speed except that you get to Providence in what seems like an impossibly short time.

Everything else, well, it's apparently limited by the tracks. Typically you will get at least one or two pokey stretches where the trains seems to be putt-putting along at fifteen or twenty miles an hour through urban settings, and the Acela is just as pokey as the Northeast Regional.

You can check the schedules for yourself, but all in all the "Northeast regional" service is pretty good. The differences in speed and comfort are not all that great. The Acela makes fewer stops and with one thing and another it does get you there a good bit faster. The Notheast regional trains are good for comfort, and you get an AC outlet in the window seat, and all that stuff...

Food is awful in both. Don't expect any fine dining experience. You'll get microwaved hamburgers and refrigerated sandwiches at a high price... and they often run out of items.
Last I looked - the big savings in time are between the Acela Express and non Express / Amtrak. There are many stations that are skipped on the Acela Express trains and this is where the real time savings are. You can look at time tables to see what the time saving are - the time savings are in not having to stop at all the smaller stations versus the speed difference of the train as far as I recall.
Time savings depends on the specific portion of the NEC you are traveling on. For example, between Boston and Providence, Acela is substantially faster. In metropolitan New York where the tracks are busy with commuter trains, the difference is much smaller. Yes, the limited schedule improves times considerably. But I don't choose Acela just for the time savings.
I was thinking specifically of the case of Boston all the way to DC. There are several smaller stations in CT and other states (as I recall) that stops aren't made.

criticalmass
Posts: 1402
Joined: Wed Feb 12, 2014 10:58 pm

Re: Is Acela (Amtrak) service worth it?

Post by criticalmass » Fri Jan 25, 2019 10:27 am

GoldStar wrote:
Fri Jan 25, 2019 9:46 am
criticalmass wrote:
Fri Jan 25, 2019 9:44 am
GoldStar wrote:
Fri Jan 25, 2019 9:42 am
nisiprius wrote:
Thu Jan 24, 2019 11:25 pm
I only know the route between Boston and Washington. As far as I can tell, the only place where the Acela really shows its speed is between Route 128 station and Providence, Rhode Island, in which you do about 35 miles in about 20 minutes. It is breathtaking and almost unbelievable. The ride is very smooth and not very different from it is at 60 mph and you do not have that much of a sense of speed except that you get to Providence in what seems like an impossibly short time.

Everything else, well, it's apparently limited by the tracks. Typically you will get at least one or two pokey stretches where the trains seems to be putt-putting along at fifteen or twenty miles an hour through urban settings, and the Acela is just as pokey as the Northeast Regional.

You can check the schedules for yourself, but all in all the "Northeast regional" service is pretty good. The differences in speed and comfort are not all that great. The Acela makes fewer stops and with one thing and another it does get you there a good bit faster. The Notheast regional trains are good for comfort, and you get an AC outlet in the window seat, and all that stuff...

Food is awful in both. Don't expect any fine dining experience. You'll get microwaved hamburgers and refrigerated sandwiches at a high price... and they often run out of items.
Last I looked - the big savings in time are between the Acela Express and non Express / Amtrak. There are many stations that are skipped on the Acela Express trains and this is where the real time savings are. You can look at time tables to see what the time saving are - the time savings are in not having to stop at all the smaller stations versus the speed difference of the train as far as I recall.
Time savings depends on the specific portion of the NEC you are traveling on. For example, between Boston and Providence, Acela is substantially faster. In metropolitan New York where the tracks are busy with commuter trains, the difference is much smaller. Yes, the limited schedule improves times considerably. But I don't choose Acela just for the time savings.
I was thinking specifically of the case of Boston all the way to DC. There are several smaller stations in CT and other states (as I recall) that stops aren't made.
True. Some Amtrak stations are not served by all regional (non-Acela) trains either. But trains do need to slow down through many stations from their top speed in that segment, even for non-Amtrak stations for safety reasons. The top speeds on Acela (150 mph) are currently reached between Boston & Providence. Later this year (2019), the trip between Philadelphia & New York will be faster (160 mph) as upgrades are finally completed to the 85 year old catenary.

Valuethinker
Posts: 39212
Joined: Fri May 11, 2007 11:07 am

Re: Is Acela (Amtrak) service worth it?

Post by Valuethinker » Fri Jan 25, 2019 10:41 am

InvisibleAerobar wrote:
Fri Jan 25, 2019 5:28 am
02nz wrote:
Fri Jan 25, 2019 2:18 am
nisiprius wrote:
Thu Jan 24, 2019 11:25 pm
in which you do about 35 miles in about 20 minutes. It is breathtaking and almost unbelievable.
Ah, the wonders of high-speed rail in America!

Nisiprius, if you find Acela "almost unbelievable" at 105 mph, you really need to experience France's TGV (on which Acela is based) or Germany's ICE, which go up to about 185 mph. Or the maglev in Shanghai, which does 268 mph.

To answer OP's question, no Acela isn't worth it, there's little speed advantage because very little of the track has been modernized to permit high-speed operation.
That’s what apparently passes for “high-speed rail” these days. The real irony is that there was a revenue generating train service in the U.S., where the trains on the service averaged 100 mph. This was the Hiawatha service btwn Chicago and Milwaukee back in the 1930s, powered by a steam locomotive, no less
There's a distinguished history of dying technologies achieving their best performance when they are in sunset mode.

(The Flying Scotsman from Edinburgh to London did something similar in the 1950s).

This happened in sailing ships, which were competitors in cargo movements for decades post the invention of the steam ship. Brunel's The Great Eastern, the first steam powered ocean going iron ship, was actually converted back into a sailing vessel for the Australia trade, where the fuel savings made it worthwhile.

New England ice merchants (exporting to Europe - not making that up) made many improvements to stay competitive with early mechanical icemaking machinery.

Thermal power stations are more or less at the laws of physics limit to their efficiency right now (Cornot's Law) - a theoretical efficiency of over 60% for a Combined Cycle Gas Turbine (vs. mid 30s for a coal-fired station).

The same thing may be happening in Internal Combustion Engine vehicles now.

Rail in the USA followed the same pattern. Its renaissance, first in Japan then in France then in other developed countries, was around strong government intervention, rising road and air congestion and associated environmental sensitivities. Many of the TGV lines in France are just not economic and that will also prove to be true of the Chinese ones. Paradoxically, it helps if you have low rural population density - makes the lines a lot cheaper to build (the British problem, writ large, is the payment of compensation for expropriation of land).

The US renaissance has been about rail freight, where the US has perhaps the most efficient and technologically advanced rail system in the world. Passenger trains cling on by a lifeline - they would only truly be missed in the US Northeast (but I expect California has a need for them - although the planned HSR looks ... fiscally dubious).

High Speed Rail has a political flavour to it, "high speed envy" of other countries. It's clear what the advantages are of doubling speed from 60 mph to 120 mph. Harder to see whether the next 60-80 mph buys you that much more utility.

peseta
Posts: 116
Joined: Mon Mar 09, 2015 11:40 pm

Re: Is Acela (Amtrak) service worth it?

Post by peseta » Fri Jan 25, 2019 11:18 am

Funny, I’m actually sitting on an Acela right now writing this. I agree with others: not really worth it unless you are going over track that can exploit its speed (stretch approaching Boston). I only bother taking it DC-Boston. You save 1.5 hours on that trip. I never bother on a trip to NYC, the value isn’t there.

peseta

DarkHelmetII
Posts: 435
Joined: Mon Jul 24, 2017 12:25 pm

Re: Is Acela (Amtrak) service worth it?

Post by DarkHelmetII » Fri Jan 25, 2019 4:36 pm

All depends on price point - what you are willing to pay and prices being offered. I am cherry picking data points .... but consider fares offered tomorrow, Saturday, January 26.

WAS-NYP 9:25 AM - 12:47 PM (3h 22m) $156
WAS-NYP 10:00 AM - 12:51 PM (2h 51m) $173

To some people saving 30 minutes is worth $17. Also consider that when there are delays Acela gets priority. The other threads about only a small section of Boston to DC Track truly being high speed are absolutely true ... but that doesn't mean there are not other benefits. Back in the day when there was Metroliner, that service was still more reliable and quicker than regular Regional trains; not because of any technological differences (as with the Acela's 'tilting engineering') but because a) the train simply makes fewer stops, b) the train stops for less time when it does make a stop, and c) is prioritized when there are delays.

User avatar
ResearchMed
Posts: 9440
Joined: Fri Dec 26, 2008 11:25 pm

Re: Is Acela (Amtrak) service worth it?

Post by ResearchMed » Fri Jan 25, 2019 4:39 pm

Admiral wrote:
Fri Jan 25, 2019 7:41 am
Keep in mind one big difference:

Acela guarantees you a seat. Regular trains do not. Typically this is not a problem, but I have been on very crowded NE Corridor trains that were essentially full for part of the trip. If you have multiple people in your group, this may be an issue. Traveling at off hours/days you will be fine.

When I pay, I use regular train service. When the office pays, I use Acela. I actually prefer the seats on the regular trains.

Acela b/w Philly and NY is an absolute rip off. Philly to DC is a bit better.
The guaranteed seats are enough for us these days.

RM
This signature is a placebo. You are in the control group.

User avatar
Topic Author
catdude
Posts: 1768
Joined: Mon Jul 16, 2007 8:11 pm
Location: Central Oregon

Re: Is Acela (Amtrak) service worth it?

Post by catdude » Fri Jan 25, 2019 5:10 pm

Thanks y'all for your responses. Most of you seem to feel that Acela isn't worth the premium, so that settles it. I'll stick with regular Amtrak trains on my trip.
catdude | | "As much as cats fight, there always seems to be plenty of kittens." (Abraham Lincoln)

User avatar
grabiner
Advisory Board
Posts: 25623
Joined: Tue Feb 20, 2007 11:58 pm
Location: Columbia, MD

Re: Is Acela (Amtrak) service worth it?

Post by grabiner » Fri Jan 25, 2019 10:12 pm

I go BWI Airport-NYC fairly often, and never take the Acela unless there are specific time issues (need to leave work in the afternoon and have dinner in New York). The fare difference is usually more than $100, and I find the regular trains comfortable enough.
Wiki David Grabiner

rjbraun
Posts: 1486
Joined: Sun Sep 09, 2012 8:22 pm

Re: Is Acela (Amtrak) service worth it?

Post by rjbraun » Sat Jan 26, 2019 12:07 am

Admiral wrote:
Fri Jan 25, 2019 7:41 am
Keep in mind one big difference:

Acela guarantees you a seat. Regular trains do not. Typically this is not a problem, but I have been on very crowded NE Corridor trains that were essentially full for part of the trip. If you have multiple people in your group, this may be an issue. Traveling at off hours/days you will be fine.

When I pay, I use regular train service. When the office pays, I use Acela. I actually prefer the seats on the regular trains.

Acela b/w Philly and NY is an absolute rip off. Philly to DC is a bit better.
What do you mean by "Acela guarantees you a seat"? I normally ride the Regional train, which has "reserved" seating. My understanding is that that means that, at least in theory, every passenger should find a seat somewhere on the train. Last time I rode Acela, several years ago, I didn't notice any difference. I also had to just keep looking until I found an empty seat.

In fact, that time I rode the Acela was from Philly to DC. There were three of us and we had to change our tickets from the Regional Super Saver(?) fare to Acela (thanks to a late arriving SEPTA train :annoyed). Ouch. I think each ticket went from something like $33 to $200. And, you say Philly and NY is an absolute rip off. Wow :shock:

rjbraun
Posts: 1486
Joined: Sun Sep 09, 2012 8:22 pm

Re: Is Acela (Amtrak) service worth it?

Post by rjbraun » Sat Jan 26, 2019 12:12 am

catdude wrote:
Fri Jan 25, 2019 5:10 pm
Thanks y'all for your responses. Most of you seem to feel that Acela isn't worth the premium, so that settles it. I'll stick with regular Amtrak trains on my trip.
Good call. And, if you want to avoid listening to others' phone calls or loud conversations, head to the "Quiet Car", which, I believe, is normally available on most of the trains traveling the NE Corridor. In QC no cell phones and no loud conversations ("a library-like atmosphere" is supposed to be maintained).

To me, QC is the best. I would prefer to ride there than pay up for a business seat. Yes, roomier, but not worth the noise, imo.

User avatar
Elric
Posts: 231
Joined: Sat Dec 08, 2018 12:23 am
Location: Virginia
Contact:

Re: Is Acela (Amtrak) service worth it?

Post by Elric » Sat Jan 26, 2019 12:53 am

catdude wrote:
Fri Jan 25, 2019 5:10 pm
Thanks y'all for your responses. Most of you seem to feel that Acela isn't worth the premium, so that settles it. I'll stick with regular Amtrak trains on my trip.
Good call. I share that view. And by the way, Amtrak is far nicer than traveling airplane coach. One other thing: prices tend to go up as the trip date gets closer. I believe you'll save if you can buy your tickets well in advance.
"No man is free who works for a living." | Illya Kuryakin

Ret2018
Posts: 23
Joined: Sun Jan 07, 2018 3:40 pm

Re: Is Acela (Amtrak) service worth it?

Post by Ret2018 » Sat Jan 26, 2019 9:54 am

One thing to consider is that the higher priced Acela gets priority when the train tracks are backed up. So if the Acela and the Northeast regional are both ready to go, and only one track available, the Acela gets the go. Acela used to have an arrival time guarantee. Don't know if it still does.

As was alluded to earlier, when using the Northeast regional (or any other Amtrak train), your best bet is to find the train that originates closest to your starting point. That lowers, but does not eliminate, the probability of delays. The Florida auto train is infamous for it's many hour delays.

User avatar
grabiner
Advisory Board
Posts: 25623
Joined: Tue Feb 20, 2007 11:58 pm
Location: Columbia, MD

Re: Is Acela (Amtrak) service worth it?

Post by grabiner » Sat Jan 26, 2019 10:50 am

Admiral wrote:
Fri Jan 25, 2019 7:41 am
Keep in mind one big difference:

Acela guarantees you a seat. Regular trains do not. Typically this is not a problem, but I have been on very crowded NE Corridor trains that were essentially full for part of the trip. If you have multiple people in your group, this may be an issue.
This was the case years ago, but now all trains on the Northeast Corridor are reserved. You don't have an assigned seat, but you do have a ticket for a specific train, which will only be sold if there is a seat available on that train.
Wiki David Grabiner

User avatar
LadyGeek
Site Admin
Posts: 58647
Joined: Sat Dec 20, 2008 5:34 pm
Location: Philadelphia
Contact:

Re: Is Acela (Amtrak) service worth it?

Post by LadyGeek » Sat Jan 26, 2019 1:59 pm

With regards to traffic safety, the discussion is starting to derail. Please stay focused on the financial aspects.

Update: The previous posts have been removed, see below.
Wiki To some, the glass is half full. To others, the glass is half empty. To an engineer, it's twice the size it needs to be.

Afty
Posts: 1122
Joined: Sun Sep 07, 2014 5:31 pm

Re: Is Acela (Amtrak) service worth it?

Post by Afty » Sat Jan 26, 2019 4:25 pm

grabiner wrote:
Sat Jan 26, 2019 10:50 am
Admiral wrote:
Fri Jan 25, 2019 7:41 am
Keep in mind one big difference:

Acela guarantees you a seat. Regular trains do not. Typically this is not a problem, but I have been on very crowded NE Corridor trains that were essentially full for part of the trip. If you have multiple people in your group, this may be an issue.
This was the case years ago, but now all trains on the Northeast Corridor are reserved. You don't have an assigned seat, but you do have a ticket for a specific train, which will only be sold if there is a seat available on that train.
It can still be a problem if there are multiple people in your group though. Without assigned seats, there is no way to guarantee you will be able to sit together. This could be a real problem if you're traveling with kids, for example.

JimSmiley1850
Posts: 21
Joined: Fri Jul 17, 2015 3:57 pm

Re: Is Acela (Amtrak) service worth it?

Post by JimSmiley1850 » Sat Jan 26, 2019 4:39 pm

An alternative perspective, I go up to NYC from DC several times a year and take Megabus usually $18 or less one way and sometimes if I know my schedule well in advance $ 1. It is reasonably comfortable and equivalent to time to the train, drop off near Penn station. I put the savings toward dinner at Keens or Peter Luger!

User avatar
obafgkm
Posts: 421
Joined: Fri Mar 11, 2016 9:12 am
Location: Pennsylvania

Re: Is Acela (Amtrak) service worth it?

Post by obafgkm » Sat Jan 26, 2019 10:05 pm

LadyGeek wrote:
Sat Jan 26, 2019 1:59 pm
With regards to traffic safety, the discussion is starting to derail. Please stay focused on the financial aspects.
Well-played, LadyGeek. Well-played. :P

User avatar
rob
Posts: 3071
Joined: Mon Feb 19, 2007 6:49 pm
Location: Here

Re: Is Acela (Amtrak) service worth it?

Post by rob » Sat Jan 26, 2019 10:13 pm

Afty wrote:
Sat Jan 26, 2019 4:25 pm
It can still be a problem if there are multiple people in your group though. Without assigned seats, there is no way to guarantee you will be able to sit together. This could be a real problem if you're traveling with kids, for example.
Acela first class now has assigned seat numbers - started a few months ago.
| Rob | Its a dangerous business going out your front door. - J.R.R.Tolkien

z3r0c00l
Posts: 1535
Joined: Fri Jul 06, 2012 11:43 am
Location: NYC
Contact:

Re: Is Acela (Amtrak) service worth it?

Post by z3r0c00l » Sat Jan 26, 2019 10:28 pm

I only do it if the company is paying : ) Else, I avoid the train entirely and use the bus for less than half the price.

blastoff
Posts: 270
Joined: Thu Jan 19, 2012 12:04 pm

Re: Is Acela (Amtrak) service worth it?

Post by blastoff » Sun Jan 27, 2019 12:07 am

NE regional does 120-125 mph between Newark and Philly.

The problem with Amtrak is not top speeds. It's the slow speed areas and stops that waste time... doing 85mph in areas that are currently 40mph helps a lot more than doing 160 where it is currently 130mph.

Valuethinker
Posts: 39212
Joined: Fri May 11, 2007 11:07 am

Re: Is Acela (Amtrak) service worth it?

Post by Valuethinker » Sun Jan 27, 2019 3:06 am

blastoff wrote:
Sun Jan 27, 2019 12:07 am
NE regional does 120-125 mph between Newark and Philly.

The problem with Amtrak is not top speeds. It's the slow speed areas and stops that waste time... doing 85mph in areas that are currently 40mph helps a lot more than doing 160 where it is currently 130mph.
This is true.

Only on long distances does doing 160 v 130 make much difference as to time.

InvisibleAerobar
Posts: 357
Joined: Mon Jan 15, 2018 12:33 pm

Re: Is Acela (Amtrak) service worth it?

Post by InvisibleAerobar » Sun Jan 27, 2019 11:32 am

blastoff wrote:
Sun Jan 27, 2019 12:07 am
NE regional does 120-125 mph between Newark and Philly.

The problem with Amtrak is not top speeds. It's the slow speed areas and stops that waste time... doing 85mph in areas that are currently 40mph helps a lot more than doing 160 where it is currently 130mph.
this was the surprising part

train from Philly to Baltimore apparently takes 65 minutes, and that's with one stop in Wilmington. The comparable trip by car takes about 1hr 40 min, if one is lucky.

Similarly, train from Philly to EWR takes 65 minutes (with two stops); comparable drive is 1hr 15. That said, i'm not sure if Amtrak goes consistently above 100 mph. It's pretty slow as it meanders through North Philly, and only appears to get to top speed a good 15 minutes from 30th Street (so 1/4 of the trip). That said, it's got wheels once inside NJ.


your last point re: 85 mph v 40 mph is salient when it comes to speeding; it'd take a lot more of 20 mph+ speeding (aka reckless driving) to make up for just one hour of moderate traffic at 40 mph.

Edit: please ignore the 40 v 85 mph driving tangent. Was not fully awake
obafgkm wrote:
Sat Jan 26, 2019 10:05 pm
LadyGeek wrote:
Sat Jan 26, 2019 1:59 pm
With regards to traffic safety, the discussion is starting to derail. Please stay focused on the financial aspects.
Well-played, LadyGeek. Well-played. :P
thanks for pointing that out; i'm a bit dense right now to notice the double-entendre :beer
Last edited by InvisibleAerobar on Sun Jan 27, 2019 1:13 pm, edited 1 time in total.

blastoff
Posts: 270
Joined: Thu Jan 19, 2012 12:04 pm

Re: Is Acela (Amtrak) service worth it?

Post by blastoff » Sun Jan 27, 2019 12:12 pm

InvisibleAerobar wrote:
Sun Jan 27, 2019 11:32 am
blastoff wrote:
Sun Jan 27, 2019 12:07 am
NE regional does 120-125 mph between Newark and Philly.

The problem with Amtrak is not top speeds. It's the slow speed areas and stops that waste time... doing 85mph in areas that are currently 40mph helps a lot more than doing 160 where it is currently 130mph.
this was the surprising part

train from Philly to Baltimore apparently takes 65 minutes, and that's with one stop in Wilmington. The comparable trip by car takes about 1hr 40 min, if one is lucky.

Similarly, train from Philly to EWR takes 65 minutes (with two stops); comparable drive is 1hr 15. That said, i'm not sure if Amtrak goes consistently above 100 mph. It's pretty slow as it meanders through North Philly, and only appears to get to top speed a good 15 minutes from 30th Street (so 1/4 of the trip). That said, it's got wheels once inside NJ.


your last point re: 85 mph v 40 mph is salient when it comes to speeding; it'd take a lot more of 20 mph+ speeding (aka reckless driving) to make up for just one hour of moderate traffic at 40 mph.
obafgkm wrote:
Sat Jan 26, 2019 10:05 pm
LadyGeek wrote:
Sat Jan 26, 2019 1:59 pm
With regards to traffic safety, the discussion is starting to derail. Please stay focused on the financial aspects.
Well-played, LadyGeek. Well-played. :P
thanks for pointing that out; i'm a bit dense right now to notice the double-entendre :beer
Correct.

Slow through north Philly.

And slow between EWR and out of Penn station.

User avatar
LadyGeek
Site Admin
Posts: 58647
Joined: Sat Dec 20, 2008 5:34 pm
Location: Philadelphia
Contact:

Re: Is Acela (Amtrak) service worth it?

Post by LadyGeek » Sun Jan 27, 2019 12:51 pm

I removed several off-topic posts related to traffic safety, including a few earlier posts.

Please stay on-track, which are the consumer aspects.
Wiki To some, the glass is half full. To others, the glass is half empty. To an engineer, it's twice the size it needs to be.

Jack56
Posts: 47
Joined: Thu Jun 30, 2016 3:27 pm

Re: Is Acela (Amtrak) service worth it?

Post by Jack56 » Sun Jan 27, 2019 6:20 pm

I would take whatever is cheapest because neither is particularly good compared to rail service in countries we like to think we are similar to.

Post Reply