I have to say that I have a love affair with Amtrak’s Acela Express service. This very minute I am enroute from New York to Boston on Acela Express, the only high-speed rail service in the US. With a travel time of about 3.5 hours between city pairs and speeds of up to 150 miles per hour, it is quite a unique transportation experience. First Class amenities include complimentary cocktails in branded glassware, a choice of meals provided by dedicated First Class attendants, free Wifi, and power ports at each seat. The Club Acela lounges in each major city are invitation only enclaves for First Class and very frequent travelers. There is a Business Class section on each Acela Express train and a club car with drinks, food, and flat-screen TV’s to gather with fellow passengers and watch CNN or ESPN’s hot game of the day. With fares often less than flights from Boston Logan to New York’s LaGuardia, who prefers the hassle of check-in at the airport, security, air traffic delays, and then commuting from the respective airports? And do you really want to travel via interstate highway with guaranteed traffic frustration? Not me.
Amtrak’s Acela Express and Acela Regional brands have been hugely successful. It has been reported that a mere five years after the launch of Acela Express, Amtrak’s share of the transport market between Boston and New York leaped to 40% from only 18% previous to Acela’s startup. So this begs another question: With the Obama administration’s aggressive plan to bring high-speed rail service to 80% of Americans (this figure taken from his recent State of The Union address), would it not be in the best interest to fully privatize the nation’s railway system at the same time?
I am excited at the possibility of new rail operators competing in high-speed service with their own unique brands. Yes, while the Acela product is great and profitable today, I see the potential for better services. And with the goal of increasing rail speeds the impact on travel and commerce will be amazing.
If you live anywhere from Washington, DC to Boston and have the opportunity to try Acela Express, do it. It is definitely worth seeing what the future holds.
More information on the topic to come, stay tuned!