18 April 2011

Amtrak Service and Fares - Routes - # 5 - Short-distance corridors - Eastern

NORTHEAST CORRIDOR  (Washington, D.C. – Philadelphia – New York – Boston)

The northeast part of the U.S. is where the largest single concentration of Amtrak service exists.

The New York-Washington, D.C. market is the only one in the U.S. where more people use the train than fly due to the relatively short distance, the frequency of trains, and higher speed relative to other parts of the U.S.

Between Washington, New York, and Boston, Amtrak offers two distinct services: Northeast Regional and Acela Express.

The former uses older equipment, offers business class and coach accommodations, runs at slower speeds, and makes more stops.  But the Northeast Regional trains are still swift and frequent, and for many leisure travelers the higher cost for a slightly faster ride is not justified.

Acela Express service began in late 2000 using brand-new equipment designed for higher speed service.  The appearance of the trains is similar to that of some European high-speed trains.  Classes of service include business class and first class, and among other features, these trains offer "Quiet Cars" (cars where use of cell-phones, loud conversations, and other noisy nuisances are not allowed) as well as free wi-fi.

These trains reach 150 mph (240 kph) on a stretch of track between New York and Boston, but mostly run at lower speeds than that.  Wikipedia has an excellent page about Acela Express.

Acela Express is Amtrak’s flagship operation in the Northeast and gives a taste of what would be possible if the United States ever got off its rear end and caught up with the rest of the developed world, not to mention Taiwan, China, and South Korea.  Fat chance, considering the dreary politics of "no taxes"/disinvestment that mark this era.

Why anyone would fly between New York and Washington astounds me when the service by train is so much more pleasant, and overall door-to-door travel time usually faster by train than by air.

Some of the Northeast Regional trains operate south beyond Washington, D.C. as far as Richmond, Newport News, and Lynchburg, Virginia.

KEYSTONE (New York-Philadelphia-Harrisburg)

Keystone service connects Harrisburg, the capital of Pennsylvania with Philadelphia, and points north as far as New York.  Only coach service is offered, without any other amenities such as meal or beverage service.

Between Harrisburg and Pennsylvania the service is unreserved like a commuter train. 
Between Harrisburg and points beyond Philadelphia seats are reserved, but not preassigned.  Trains operate all day long.

DOWNEASTER  (Boston-Portland, Me.)

This service links Boston (North Station) to Maine as far north as Portland, with Amtrak Thruway motorcoach (bus) extending the reach of the service as far as Bangor.  (Northeast Corridor service in Boston to New York operates out of South Station.)  Business class and coach service is provided.  5 trains operate each direction.

Because Downeaster service leaves from Boston North Station and all other Amtrak service operates from South Station, you're best off using a taxi to get between the two stations (instead of transit) if you have much luggage.

CAROLINIAN / PIEDMONT  (Charlotte-Raleigh-New York)
Amtrak operates Piedmont service within North Carolina between Charlotte and Raleigh twice daily.  Coach service only available.

Once daily Carolinian trains operate between Charlotte, Raleigh, and New York.  Business class and coach service is provided.

PALMETTO  (Savannah-Charleston-New York)

It makes for a very long day, but Amtrak operates a non-overnight service between Savannah, Charleston, and New York on the Palmetto.  Business class and coach service is available.

ADIRONDACK (New York-Albany-Montréal)

The Adirondack operates daily between New York and Montréal along the Hudson River and Lake Champlaign.  Reserved coach service is available, and snack service in a café car.  In years gone by Amtrak's sole remaining dome car has been used on the train during the autumn.


ETHAN ALLEN EXPRESS (New York - Albany - Rutland, Vt.)

This daytime train follows the same route as the Adirondack as far as Whitehall, N.Y., where it turns east to terminate at Rutland, Vt.  Coach and business class service is offered.

VERMONTER (New York-Montpelier-St. Albans, Vt.)

The Vermonter runs through Connecticut and western Massachusetts to the capital of Vermont (Montpelier) and ends in St. Albans, close to the Canadian border.  Service choices on board the Vermonter include coach and business class.

While this is a daytime train, its predecessor along the same route was the Montrealer, an overnight train I took twice in the 90s as far as Montpelier. 

EMPIRE SERVICE (New York-Albany-Syracuse-Rochester-Buffalo-Niagara Falls)
MAPLE LEAF (New York-Toronto)

Empire Service (as in the "Empire State") is offered from New York City to Albany and beyond to upstate New York as far as Buffalo and Niagara Falls.

Currently twelve daily trains operate as far as Albany (including the Adirondack that continues to Montreal), and three of those trains continue as far as Buffalo and Niagara Falls.  Except for the Adirondack, the trains all offer both coach and business class service.

The Maple Leaf is one of the three trains to Niagara Falls, N.Y., but it continues on to cross the Canadian border and terminate in Toronto, Ontario.  It is one of three Amtrak trains that operate internationally, the others being the Adirondack and the trains in the Pacific Northwest that serve Vancouver, B.C.  Unlike these other two services where Amtrak personnel work all the way through to Canada, on the Maple Leaf the Amtrak crew is replaced at the Canadian border by employees of VIA Rail Canada, and vice-versa when operating from Toronto to New York. 

Amtrak Service and Fares - navigational links
Backward to Routes - Long-distance trains - Eastern (Chicago to the east coast)
Forward to Routes - # 6 - Short-distance corridors - Central

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