I went from New York to New Haven on a Saturday to visit Yale. I didn’t want to drive, so train options were the Amtrak services or the Metro North commuter train. In terms of Amtrak trains, the “higher speed” Amtrak’s Acela serves this route, but you only save about 5 minutes, and the tickets are way more expensive so I didn’t even consider it. The Amtrak Vermonter and Northeast Regional serve the route in about 1 hour and 45 minutes with 3 or so stops. On the other hand, the New York MTA’s Metro North takes 2 hours and 15 minutes and has 16 stops.
The last time I was on Amtrak was in the beginning of 2020, from the West Coast going between Orange County to San Diego on the Pacific Surfliner. I was excited to try out my first Amtrak ride in over 3 years.
I booked my ticket about 2 weeks in advance for $44 roundtrip ($22 each way). My train to New Haven was on the Vermonter, while my train back to New York was on the Northeast Regional. With Amtrak, a negative is that if you try to book last minute, fares can skyrocket. For instance, my outbound train was $76 one way on the day of departure. Comparatively, the Metro North is $35.50 roundtrip on this route during off-peak (like the weekend), and you don’t need to book in advance.
Moynihan Train Hall New York Penn Station:
I remember the first time I took Amtrak at Penn Station 15 years ago, and that station was not nice at all. Thankfully, they have renovated the station in 2021 where the Amtrak and Long Island Rail Road (LIRRs) depart from. It was surprisingly fancy, with upscale food shops and even live music playing. It felt like I was in Europe or something.
Amtrak Vermonter and Northeast Regional Seating + Amenities:
Coach seats are unassigned, so you can sit wherever you’d like. My outbound train was not too crowded, but the inbound train was a bit more packed. Both were easy to find seats though. Also, the Vermonter and Northeast Regional trains looked identical, and the interiors did as well. While the outside of the trains looked quite old, thankfully the inside of the cars were much more renovated.
The coach seats on both trains were set up in a 2-2 configuration and offered solid legroom, reclining, and plush seats. There are power outlets but no USB charging ports.
Also, free Wi-Fi is offered on the train. It worked well on my Vermonter train but was spotty on my train back with the Northeast Regional.
There was a cafe car on both trains, and they had hot options (Mac and cheese, cheeseburger, etc) as well as sandwiches and salads. For drinks, they had sodas, wine, beer, and cocktails. Prices were quite fair too, $7.50 for a Burger, and $8.50 for a Chicken Caesar Salad.
Each of the cars had a bathroom, and I did visit it once and it was acceptable. Not super clean, but it was relatively okay.
One encounter that bugged me was on the Northeast Regional. We walked from our coach cabin to the dining car which was 3 cars away. Sadly, on one of the train connectors, the roof was leaking as it was raining, and we got our hair wet. It also was a slipping hazard.
On a brighter note, the best part of taking the train is being able to look outside. I got a nice view of New York City on my morning ride.
Business Class and BidUp:
Additionally, there is a business class car on both trains. But, the Amtrak Vermonter is roomier with a 1-2 configuration versus the Northeast Regional with a 2-2 configuration.
Amtrak has a program called BidUp where you can place a bid to upgrade your reservation into one of the premium classes of service.
How it works is that you can bid a certain price for a seat upgrade up to 2 hours before scheduled departure, and they say they will let you know if you have been awarded an upgrade 1-2 hours before departure. For my outbound leg on the Vermonter, the lowest bid I could place was $9, and it was showing a “Poor Rating”. I didn’t need an upgrade for a short ride that didn’t seem full, so I just bid $9 for fun. My inbound leg on Northeast Regional had the lowest bid at $23, so I didn’t even attempt. I’m sure the offers are based on demand, as my outbound leg was much emptier.
They ended up emailing me 32 minutes before departure saying I was unsuccessful. Oh well.
Over 2-Hour Delay on Northeast Regional:
While my ride on the Vermonter had no issues and was pleasant, my train back from New Haven to New York was a mess. It was scheduled to be 1 hour and 45 minutes but ended up being over 3 hours and 30 minutes.
From the start, it was delayed 10 minutes and we saw the delay on the departure board when we arrived at the New Haven station. But that wasn’t a big deal…yet.
Everything was fine until we hit the last stop before New York City at the New Rochelle Station. It’s only 30 minutes out from the city, but after we stopped here, we had to go backward. The conductor told us we needed to switch tracks to allow another train to pass us. I’m not sure why they would have to pass us… Also, for perfect timing, the conductor announced the cafe car would be closed until restocking at New York Penn.
We were idle for a good 35 minutes, and now 2 Metro North trains passed us. Finally, the conductor tells us that there’s a signal outage so we can’t go back to the tracks. After a while, it finally gets fixed so we start moving, but then we stop again and the conductor says we have to let another Amtrak pass us, and it’s been about 1 hour and 30 minutes now. We were moving excessively slow throughout the rest of the train ride, and finally arrive at New York Penn over 2 hours late. Yikes!
The lack of updates was really bothersome, and I really don’t know what went wrong or why trains had to pass us. But that was definitely annoying.
Overall, I enjoyed my train ride from New York to New Haven on the Amtrak Vermonter. The plush seats and smooth ride were great. However, the delay on my return leg aboard the Northeast Regional did leave a bit of a sour taste in my mouth. Hopefully, it was a one-off, and my next Amtrak adventure goes more smoothly.
Have you been on the Amtrak Vermonter or Northeastern Regional? How was your experience? Comment below!
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