I needed to travel from New York to Boston and was looking for the most economical way. I checked both flights and trains. Trains looked to be the cheapest, and most trains on Amtrak are between the Acela and the Northeast Regional. The Acela is Amtrak’s attempt at a “bullet train”.
The Acela is Amtrak’s high-speed train service, which can reach speeds of up to 150 miles per hour (240 kilometers per hour) on specific segments of its route. But due to aging infrastructure, it rarely hits that speed.
The exact time difference between the Amtrak Acela and Northeastern Regional can vary depending on factors such as the specific schedules, stops, and delays. On average, the Acela can save you about 30-60 minutes in travel time compared to the Northeast Regional for the New York to Boston route which is about 210 miles. I chose the Acela because the schedule fit my plans the best, but our duration was scheduled for 3 hours and 51 minutes from New York Penn to Boston South Station, which is one of the slower Acela schedules operating this route while the Northeast Regional departing after my Acela was scheduled for 4 hours and 25 minutes. So we were scheduled to save 34 minutes. I took the Northeast Regional on my train home, and you can check out that review here if you’d like.
Booking and Pricing:
I’ve seen Amtrak prices really fluctuate all over the place. Thankfully, for my Acela train that I booked about 2 months in advance, I was able to get a ticket for $58 for the lowest-priced ticket. For comparison, the next Northeastern Regional train was $31 for the lowest-priced ticket. Amtrak trains get progressively more expensive closer to departure, and 2 days prior I saw my ticket go up to $196, and the day before departure it was $500.
Note that Acela doesn’t sell coach tickets. They offer only Business and First Class, while the Northeast Regional has Coach and Business Class. But, business class on Acela is really just coach on the regional trains as there are no added perks (minus being able to reserve your seat).
Amtrak has a program called BidUp where you can place a bid to upgrade your reservation into First Class on Acela. The lowest bid I could enter was $94, which was almost double my ticket price. So, I passed. First Class is more spacious seating (1-2 configuration) and provides complimentary meals and beverages.
Route + Stops:
- New York, NY – Moynihan Train Hall (NYP)
- Stamford, CT (STM)
- New Haven, CT – Union Station (NHV)
- Providence, RI – Amtrak/MBTA Station (PVD)
- Route 128, MA (RTE)
- Boston, MA – Back Bay Station (BBY)
- Boston, MA – South Station (BOS)
Our train left from the beautiful Moynihan Train Hall. Taking the escalators down to the train platform, we passed the First Class Cabin first which was Car 1, but the back of the train. There were 6 cars on our train, with Car 2 being the Business Class quiet car, Cars 3,5, and 6 being normal Business Class cars, and Car 4 being the Cafe Car.
We left right on time, and the train was quite full for a 6 a.m. departure. I’m assuming this train is popular with commuters.
The car we chose was Car 6, and we got seats around a table as my group had 3 people. Unfortunately, due to how crowded the train was, at New Haven, a seatmate joined our cluster of 4.
Business seating on the Acela is in a 2-2 configuration, with either traditional seats facing a seat back, or seats facing each other with a table in between. Seats can be reserved in advance on the Amtrak app.
The seats were pretty comfortable and also had a recline function. There are 2 power ports located at the windows for each seat pair. Oddly, about halfway through the ride, the two power ports next to my seat stopped working. On the bright side, the free Wi-Fi was easy to connect to and worked well on my journey.
The Acela Cafe Car was located in Car 4. It had a pretty decent menu, and I grabbed a fruit cup and ham/egg/cheese sandwich. The sandwich was quite tasty for something made on a train, and I liked the fruit cup.
Each car had a lavatory, and I visited it halfway through my journey. It was pretty clean, and I was impressed as I was kind of scared to use it at first.
One of my favorite parts of taking the train is all the views. From the small towns you pass by, to the water you see, it’s very scenic!
The almost 4-hour trip went by quite fast, and the next thing I knew we were pulling up to Boston Back Bay Station. We ended up getting off here as it was equidistant to our destination versus South Station and would cut our train ride 10 minutes short.
Overall, I had a solid experience on the Amtrak Acela from New York to Boston, and I think I prefer it over flying between those two cities. But, since my return leg on the Northeast Regional was solid as well, I don’t really see paying the premium for Acela as the price difference is normally quite substantial, while the time saved seems a bit minuscule.
My only wish in the future is for this route to be even quicker! There is so much potential for advancements in train travel for the United States, and I truly hope that at some point in the future, we can match the trains offered in Europe and Asia.
Have you been aboard the Amtrak Acela before? How was your experience? Comment below!
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