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First time on Amtrak and first time using Penn/DC/Boston South Station: Acela Express

First time on Amtrak and first time using Penn/DC/Boston South Station: Acela Express

Old Feb 2, 19, 11:39 am
  #1  
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First time on Amtrak and first time using Penn/DC/Boston South Station: Acela Express

First time poster here, so please be gentle if I make a forum etiquette mistake!

Whilst visiting NYC in late April from the U.K., Iíve booked myself and my mother on Acela Express round trips to go to DC and Boston on separate days (will be returning the same day- theyíll be long days, but worth it). One leaving at 6am on a Monday, the other at 6.15am on a Wednesday from Penn.

This will be both my first time using Penn station AND my first time using Amtrak/Any US train service for that matter. As my mother is in her sixties and prone to anxiety in new situations/crowded places, I want to make sure I have a plan of attack and know what I need to do and when.

So hereís my worries/questions:

PENN STATION.

1. Weíre booked in First Class, so have access to the club Acela lounge: When the train is announced/updated on the board, how long do you usually have to make your way to the platform? Roughly how far of a walk are the platforms that the Acela Express usually arrives at from the lounge? My mother struggles with walking at speed, so I am worried that weíre going to be pushing it with fighting the crowds and also worried about going the wrong way, etc. Is it clearly sign posted?

2. Iíve read about using a red cap to help you board early for those with luggage/unassigned seats. We thankfully will just have back packs and have chosen our seats, but are they still available to use from Club Acela to just make sure we get to right place at the right time? Or at they just available in the main concourse?

3. Weíre on very early morning departures, but Iím still expecting it to be busy because itís NYC and prime commuting time when weíre going. How long before departure would you recommend being in the lounge? Our hotel is 10 mins walk from Penn (Iíll give it 20 though based on my motherís snail pace), so weíll be entering the main concourse from street level. Is Club Acela clearly marked?


DC and BOSTON SOUTH.

1. Similar to the above, but weíll be heading back to NYC at prime time: around 5pm on a weekday. How long should we give it before departure for both? Boston South seems compact, but DC seems huge so wonder how long it takes to navigate?

2. On the map Iím looking at for DC Union, Club Acela isnít shown; can anyone tell me where it is, so I can get my route through the station planned?


If anyone has any general advice, I will happily take it. Whilst I would be willing to run from lounge to platform if I had to, thatís just not going to happen with my mother in tow. So any help very much appreciated.

Thank you in advance to all those that help or just take the time to read!
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Old Feb 2, 19, 11:41 am
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Welcome to FlyerTalk, Rachel1. I hope your trip goes smoothly and that you get some good advice here.
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Old Feb 2, 19, 12:29 pm
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1. Youíll have lots of time. When they give you the track number, head down the central escalators to the lower level and you can get directly to the track from there and wait for the train. Avoids the whole idiotic line of death that most people wait in.

2. Iím sure the Red Caps can be called to the club to help if you need. Not a bad idea. Realizing that itís second nature for me, you may need a little guidance.

3. Are you closer to 7th Avenue or 8th Avenue? If youíre coming in from 7th, youíll have to walk clear through the station to get to the Club. Itís right by the entrance of 31st and 8th. Itís in a back corner. If you walk over by the NJ Transit/Amtrak ticket counters near track 8West, the entrance is stuffed in the corner.


DC:

1. 10-15 minutes I guess. Not sure where youíre coming from. If youíre off the Metro, you have to head upstairs. If you come in at street level, then from the main portico, walk straight through to the back. Union Station is big, but all the platforms are in the back.

2. The club is in the middle of the area where the gates are on the Street level. By Gates D and E. Again not really good directions. Youíll see an Amtrak info desk and if you walk around that, two big wooden doors. Ring the bell. They let you walk out early to the platform from there.

Tried to post links to pix of the entrances but Iím not permitted yet in this board. Someone may be able to that for you.

enjoy your trip
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Old Feb 2, 19, 1:31 pm
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Originally Posted by DailyGrind View Post
1. Youíll have lots of time. When they give you the track number, head down the central escalators to the lower level and you can get directly to the track from there and wait for the train. Avoids the whole idiotic line of death that most people wait in.

2. Iím sure the Red Caps can be called to the club to help if you need. Not a bad idea. Realizing that itís second nature for me, you may need a little guidance.

3. Are you closer to 7th Avenue or 8th Avenue? If youíre coming in from 7th, youíll have to walk clear through the station to get to the Club. Itís right by the entrance of 31st and 8th. Itís in a back corner. If you walk over by the NJ Transit/Amtrak ticket counters near track 8West, the entrance is stuffed in the corner.


DC:

1. 10-15 minutes I guess. Not sure where youíre coming from. If youíre off the Metro, you have to head upstairs. If you come in at street level, then from the main portico, walk straight through to the back. Union Station is big, but all the platforms are in the back.

2. The club is in the middle of the area where the gates are on the Street level. By Gates D and E. Again not really good directions. Youíll see an Amtrak info desk and if you walk around that, two big wooden doors. Ring the bell. They let you walk out early to the platform from there.

Tried to post links to pix of the entrances but Iím not permitted yet in this board. Someone may be able to that for you.

enjoy your trip
Thank you!

Weíll be walking down 7th, so Iím aiming to go in the main entrance at Penn. Seems easier, according the floor plan, to enter there.

The directions are brill, thank you. Weíll most likely be coming off the metro, so I can use the maps that I have to give myself a good enough plan now that youíve located the lounge for me.

Another quick question: do staff check your tickets on your way to the track like they do here in the U.K. or just once youíre on board?
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Old Feb 2, 19, 3:01 pm
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Thatís fine, just realize itís quite a walk and most of the foot traffic is heading the other way since itís morning rush. Just walk straight down the main walkway, when you reach the Amtrak gate area, the Club will be to the left.

If youíre going the Red Cap route, I doubt theyíll check your ticket. At rush hour, Iím lucky if they check it on the train.

Since youre coming off the metro in DC, Make sure you go to the exit for Union Station rather than First Street. The other end will be a bit of a walk.
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Old Feb 2, 19, 3:04 pm
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Originally Posted by DailyGrind View Post
Thatís fine, just realize itís quite a walk and most of the foot traffic is heading the other way since itís morning rush. Just walk straight down the main walkway, when you reach the Amtrak gate area, the Club will be to the left.

If youíre going the Red Cap route, I doubt theyíll check your ticket. At rush hour, Iím lucky if they check it on the train.
Cheers!
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Old Feb 2, 19, 4:00 pm
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Highly recommend you ask for a red cap in Acela Lounges at NYP, BOS, and WAS. They will escort you to the first class car before general boarding starts, so you won't have to worry about crazy crowds. I always give the red cap five dollar tip, regardless of whether I have bags for him to carry.
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Old Feb 2, 19, 5:57 pm
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Originally Posted by physioprof View Post
Highly recommend you ask for a red cap in Acela Lounges at NYP, BOS, and WAS. They will escort you to the first class car before general boarding starts, so you won't have to worry about crazy crowds. I always give the red cap five dollar tip, regardless of whether I have bags for him to carry.
Ah! So people do use the red caps from the lounge as well. Iíll definitely try for that if I can. Do you just ask the lounge attendant for red cap assistance?

Thank you!
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Old Feb 2, 19, 8:33 pm
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Originally Posted by Rachel1 View Post


Ah! So people do use the red caps from the lounge as well. Iíll definitely try for that if I can. Do you just ask the lounge attendant for red cap assistance?

Thank you!
Absolutely! I've used the red caps from the NYP lounge when I've come from a cruise bearing luggage. Just ask at the lounge when you check in and they'll send one when it's time to advance board.
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Old Feb 2, 19, 9:58 pm
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The way it works in NY Penn's Acela Lounge is that you give your name to the rep at the desk when you check in and they add you to a list. When the red cap is ready, they call all the names on the list over the PA (the tannoy, I think, in the UK?) and you meet your red cap outside the door.
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Old Feb 3, 19, 1:01 am
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Originally Posted by ImprovGal View Post
Absolutely! I've used the red caps from the NYP lounge when I've come from a cruise bearing luggage. Just ask at the lounge when you check in and they'll send one when it's time to advance board.
Brill. Now Penn doesnít seem such a daunting prospect for my mother.

Originally Posted by musicalbox View Post
The way it works in NY Penn's Acela Lounge is that you give your name to the rep at the desk when you check in and they add you to a list. When the red cap is ready, they call all the names on the list over the PA (the tannoy, I think, in the UK?) and you meet your red cap outside the door.
Weíll do just that. Thank you!

I wonder if BOS and DC have a similar setup too? They seem a lot more manageable in size and layout though, so Iím not too worried if they donít offer the same. Definitely be nice though!

Thank you again everyone!
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Old Feb 3, 19, 1:49 pm
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You've been given very good advice re: red caps and Penn in general. Just to emphasize, Penn coming in from 7th Ave. is very confusing and can be overwhelming even for those familiar with it. Give yourself a little extra time to get through it to the Amtrak/Club Acela area if you choose to enter on 7th (entering on 8th a little less intuitive but less overwhelming).

In DC you won't need a red cap as you'll board directly from Club Acela. It has its own door out to the tracks and they board from the club before the regular boarding call. The tracks are literally right there (unlike at Penn).

In Boston it's similar to Penn but the station is less confusing and overwhelming. Often there are red caps right outside the lounge and you can just tell them you'll need help getting onto XXXX train. They will then come into the lounge and get you when it's time.
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Old Feb 3, 19, 1:59 pm
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Originally Posted by wordsmith View Post
You've been given very good advice re: red caps and Penn in general. Just to emphasize, Penn coming in from 7th Ave. is very confusing and can be overwhelming even for those familiar with it. Give yourself a little extra time to get through it to the Amtrak/Club Acela area if you choose to enter on 7th (entering on 8th a little less intuitive but less overwhelming).

In DC you won't need a red cap as you'll board directly from Club Acela. It has its own door out to the tracks and they board from the club before the regular boarding call. The tracks are literally right there (unlike at Penn).

In Boston it's similar to Penn but the station is less confusing and overwhelming. Often there are red caps right outside the lounge and you can just tell them you'll need help getting onto XXXX train. They will then come into the lounge and get you when it's time.
Cheers! The set up at DC sounds ideal.

Our first train leaves around 6am, so Iím going to starting walking from the hotel about 5am (10 min walk according to google, but double it due my mother). This should hopefully give us plenty of time to take on Penn and find the lounge. Having read some less-than-positive reviews on the Club Acela Lounges, I donít want to be sat there too long either.

Weíll just have to use the first trip as a tester.
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Old Feb 3, 19, 2:11 pm
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Originally Posted by Rachel1 View Post
Our first train leaves around 6am, so I’m going to starting walking from the hotel about 5am (10 min walk according to google, but double it due my mother).
If you are at the hotel the day before to me sounds like worth doing a practise run (without mother) to be sure of the way, going to correct entrance etc. Its only 10 minutes there and 10 minutes back to hotel. I have done that several times in USA when getting trains.
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Old Feb 3, 19, 2:51 pm
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Originally Posted by Mwenenzi View Post
If you are at the hotel the day before to me sounds like worth doing a practise run (without mother) to be sure of the way, going to correct entrance etc. Its only 10 minutes there and 10 minutes back to hotel. I have done that several times in USA when getting trains.
Definitely. Itíll be on a Sunday that I can walk down, so hopefully a little quieter (yeah, right) for me to get my bearings.

You guys have all been brill. Thank you.

Random last question (and a very British one at that): Do they serve normal tea in either the lounge or the train? I see mentions of iced and green tea on menus, etc, but I canít stand either of those and I donít drink coffee. First world problems! Haha
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