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Amtrak’s flagship passenger train, the Acela, offers convenient downtown connections between the northeastern US corridor from Boston to Washington, DC. With Business and First Class cabins only, the Acela Train provides superior comfort while travelling up to 150 mph (allegedly) between Boston – New Haven – New York – Philadelphia – Wilmington – Washington DC.
Last Christmas (Dec’22), I travelled from New York City to Washington, DC, to experience the much-famed comfort and convenience of the Acela, often preferred over domestic flights between the two cities. For comparison, the Acela covers the NYC – DC corridor and connects downtown stations in under 3 hours, while the Northeast Regional takes 3 hours and 30 minutes on the same route. The flight time between the two cities is 1.5 hours, which can still take ~4 hours once you factor in the airport procedures and commute to/from the city (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=aVLnQFTazz8). I booked a last-minute one-way business class ticket on the Acela and reserved my seat in the Quiet car for no additional fee. The quiet car guidelines include no phone calls, conversations (if required) in a subdued tone, use of headphones, muted electronic devices, etc.
Train: Acela 2121
Route: New York Moynihan Train Hall (NYP) – Washington DC (WAS)
Duration: 2 hours and 53 minutes
Service: Business Class
Acela Business Class Review
I made my way to Moynihan Train Hall (NYP), located across from Penn Station in New York City. The Post Office Building turned transit hub, the stunning train hall provides access to both Amtrak and Long Island Railroad services, connecting existing platforms beneath Penn Station. The restored copper roof and steel trusses of the Post Office building are now a beautiful state-of-the-art train station.
I arrived at the train station a full hour in advance, hoping to explore the building and services offered. While the signage in the building made navigating inside the hall very easy, the trains are listed on the departures board only 20 minutes in advance. I found that confusing and inconvenient as I tried to figure out which platform my train would depart. The interactions with the staff left a lot to be desired as well. While Acela Frist Class passengers have a dedicated lounge at the train station, business class passengers do not have an exclusive area to unwind. That said, the concourse level (https://moynihantrainhall.nyc/discover/directory/) was flush with independent eateries and a food hall, which offered plenty of seating and food options for all passengers.
Following an announcement to the board, I went to platform six and boarded the Acela train. The Acela business class car is a 2-2 configuration with comfortable wide seats, electrical outlets, large tray tables, and free Wi-Fi. The overhead storage space was ample and easily fit a full-sized cabin suitcase. The car had a separate area to store larger bags and suitcases. Train 2121 pulled out of New York’s Penn Station on time at 2 pm. The views out of the window changed quickly from cityscape to rural farmlands, which were made of great window gazing. Unfortunately, 20-30 minutes out, the ride became bumpy and nowhere near the high-speed train category.
Business class cars do not get a meal service as the First Class cars do, so as soon as the café car announcement came on, I made my way down for refreshments. The walk to the café car was extraordinarily bumpy and impossible in some parts without holding on to the sides of the walkway.
The menu options were plenty, with a good selection of hot and cold meals. I opted for the Vegetarian tamale, a fruit bowl, salad and a bag of pistachios. Although the café car offered some seats (bar stools), I opted to bring the food back to my seat – the best balancing act I have done in a long while as the bumpy ride continued.
The rest of my journey was comfortable, and I enjoyed working on my laptop, occasionally enjoying the window views. The Wi-Fi connectivity continued to be strong throughout the trip without any interruptions.
The train pulled into Washington DC station a few minutes past the scheduled time but still under 3 hours. The main hall of Washington Union train station is stunning, and I wish I had more time to explore the train station.
Take Away – Acela Business Class
I enjoyed my ride from New York to DC on Acela Business class and would do it again. However, a “high-speed” train is not. I suppose it depends on the context and comparison, but the Acela never hit 150 mph speed on my journey. The product overall was satisfactory, without being fancy. Several parts of the train, including the café car, seem like a relic of yesteryear and could do with an upgrade. Still, a more dignified way to travel than domestic air travel in the US.
Info about the seat? Recline? Seat next to you occupied? If person in front of you goes full recline, can you still use laptop? Thanks
Hey Jon! Recline was decent, not excessive. Still good to use laptop even if seat was fully reclined. If seat next to you was occupied it would be a bit tight, seat width is not the biggest.