Our Experience Taking Amtrak from NYC with Acela and Regional Trains

by joeheg

During our trip to New York, we decided to take a day out to visit Philadelphia. Although it was a bit out of the way and deserved its own visit, we only needed an afternoon to grab some food at Reading Terminal Market and see the sights. When we used to live in the New York City area, driving was the most practical option. However, since we didn’t have a car during this trip, we did the next best thing and took the train. This allowed us to check out the new Moynihan Train Hall, try the Acela train, and compare it with the Amtrak regional train service between the two cities.

Our trip began in New York at the Moynihan Train Hall, located across the street from Penn Station. Opened in 2021, the former Post Office building was transformed into a modern train station for Amtrak and the Long Island Rail Road. I’d seen pictures of the building before, but seeing it in person was amazing.

Moynihan Train Hall

a large glass ceiling with people walking in it

There are plenty of shops and places to eat, so we grabbed a bagel and coffee for the train. A large waiting area only requires a train ticket to enter. We grabbed a seat and waited for our track to be announced. I booked us seats on the Acela train for the morning trip to Philadelphia.

Our train, which was due to leave at 11 AM, was slightly delayed.

a screenshot of a train station

Although Acela trains are capable of traveling up to 150 MPH, they don’t reach their top speed for most of the trip between NYC and Philadelphia. The primary time-saving benefit is that there are fewer stops than on the regional service.

I booked several weeks in advance, and our one-way tickets on the Acela train cost $50 each. Prices for last-minute bookings are much more expensive.

a person walking on a train platform

On The Acela Train

While most of the business class seating on the train is forward facing in a 2-2 configuration, sets of 4 seats and a table are available.

a seat on a train

I picked two seats in a row just before one of these 4-seat configurations.

There’s plenty of legroom to stretch out, and a footrest is also available. The entire train did have some wear on it, with scratches and scuffs on most areas.

a pair of people's legs in an airplane

The train has overhead bins for storage and easily accessible power outlets. There’s also free Wi-Fi but my internet speed was fast enough with my phone.

a row of seats on a traina close up of a power outlet

Shortly after leaving New York, the cafe car opened for service. There’s a limited selection of food and seating if you prefer not to go back to your seat to eat.

a menu board with a menu on it a train with seats and tables

We had a smooth trip to Philadelphia, even if it’s not the most scenic train ride in the world. My one mistake was the seat selection, as we had a group of families sitting behind us at the table seats; they didn’t stop talking the entire trip. So we knew all of their plans for the next days and way too much about their personal lives. I blame myself for not picking seats in the quiet car and for not bringing my noise-canceling headphones or at least my earbuds.

Back To New York

After spending the afternoon in Philadelphia, we headed back to William H. Gray III 30th Street Station.

a building with columns and a christmas tree

For the ride home I booked seats on the Northeast Corridor train for $20 each. There were no seat assignments, so we had to grab the first ones we found, much like flying with Southwest.

The Northeast Corridor train between Philadelphia and New York takes longer than the Acela because it makes stops along the journey. We found the seats to be fine for our needs.

a person's legs and feet on a plane

Although we had less legroom and no footrest, it wasn’t a problem as the trip was only slightly longer than an hour. The most noticeable difference on this trip was how incredibly quiet it was compared to our ride there. I know this has nothing to do with Amtrak’s train quality, but it shows how close the services are and highlights the difference between the two trips.

If we were to do the trip again, I would gladly take the regional service instead of the Acela. However, for a longer trip, such as going to Washington D.C. or Boston, I would consider paying extra for the Acela for the better seats and faster travel time. I would also remember to book seats in the quiet car and bring my headphones.

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This post first appeared on Your Mileage May Vary

1 comment

dee January 26, 2024 - 7:18 pm

The reading terminal food stands are great..You can get great Pizza and Italian foods especially Cannoli’s!! ANd the soft pretzels.


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