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Acela pricing, travel times increasingly uncompetitive

Acela pricing, travel times increasingly uncompetitive

Old Nov 10, 2023, 9:24 am
  #1  
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Acela pricing, travel times increasingly uncompetitive

I moved to Stamford, CT from NYC about a year ago and looked forward to taking Acela/Amtrak more given the convenience of the Stamford station. However, recently it seems like Acela is at least $400 one way (either to DC or Boston) at a minimum. In contrast,
  • LGA to either BOS to DCA ranges from $200 to $300, and in some cases, as low as $150 on a variety of airlines
  • American Airlines runs a lot of frequencies from HPN to DCA at sub $300

These flights are all under an hour. It takes me 45 minutes max to get to LGA, and less to HPN. You save time and money by flying.

When Acela was in the $200 to $300 range, it could make sense. Now I canít justify it - paying more for 4 hour train journeys seems tough

Any thoughts?
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Old Nov 10, 2023, 9:34 am
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Why does it have to be the Acela? The Regionals take just 26 minutes longer than the Acelas on that route, and are cheaper.
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Old Nov 10, 2023, 8:21 pm
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There is a sweet spot for purchasing Acelas at a decent price. You have to check often to catch it but it is somewhere around 2-3 months out. Some never drop but most do. There was a woman sitting next to me this afternoon who probably bought today (I always check if someone is sitting next to me before I board.... this morning there wasn't, an hour before departure there was) and if she did buy today she paid 4x what I did.

The RPA discount also gives 10% off. It's not much but it's something and supporting rail is a good thing in any case.
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Old Nov 12, 2023, 12:30 pm
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[QUOTE=Adelphos;35734486] recently it seems like Acela is at least $400 one way (either to DC or Boston) at a minimum. In contrast,/QUOTE]

If you can plan ahead, you can get much cheaper than that. Back in late August I was able to snag a first class seat from BOS to PHL for $236. Acela business class was going for only $69 at the time of purchase.
Edit: I just checked various dates in December and had no trouble finding Acela fares from BOS to NYP for as low at $92 one way in business class (these were the 12pm and 5pm departures).

Last edited by rittenhousesq; Nov 12, 2023 at 7:58 pm
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Old Nov 13, 2023, 12:27 pm
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There's severely constrained Acela capacity for the foreseeable future.
1. The new trainsets are not yet in service; they would allow more trains, with more seats, running more often
2. Because the trainsets are delayed, some of the old Acela trains have been taken out of service for parts and to accommodate more mechanical problems
3. Construction on the Hell Gate (East River) bridge continues through 2027, reducing the number of trains that run north of NYC (e.g., Connecticut)

As mentioned above, you can look at off-hours or book in advance for much lower fares.
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Old Nov 13, 2023, 6:00 pm
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Even 3 weeks in advance I'm seeing some pretty high pricing for NYP-WAS, whether Acela or regular NER. And these are the cheap fares with no changes and 50% penalty refund. Airlines allow free changes (sometimes without repricing, on a return leg) and free same-day confirmed changes for many elites. It is becoming harder to justify Amtrak unless booking much further out, and even then.
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Old Nov 15, 2023, 3:08 pm
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Originally Posted by ijgordon
Even 3 weeks in advance I'm seeing some pretty high pricing for NYP-WAS, whether Acela or regular NER. And these are the cheap fares with no changes and 50% penalty refund. Airlines allow free changes (sometimes without repricing, on a return leg) and free same-day confirmed changes for many elites. It is becoming harder to justify Amtrak unless booking much further out, and even then.
Three weeks in advance has never had low fares on the NEC. It used to be 6-9 months out and now it's 2-3 months. Unless the train is at 10-20% you're just not going to see low fares that close, especially now when that puts you squarely in the holiday travel season.
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Old Nov 16, 2023, 4:31 am
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Originally Posted by ijgordon
Airlines allow free changes (sometimes without repricing, on a return leg) and free same-day confirmed changes for many elites. It is becoming harder to justify Amtrak unless booking much further out, and even then.
Agree 100%. On DCA-LGA Iíve found that at the last minute, a round trip on AA first class is often cheaper than Acela Business and affords more flexibility (same-day change), a lounge I can access (as OWE), better onboard product (at least IMHO I find AA first more comfortable than bouncing around in Acela business), and typically faster (I am a show up 35 mins before takeoff type of traveler so donít really lose much time to the airport; plus I live near DCA).

Now months in advance, you can definitely get the Acela for cheap. Last minute I agree 100% itís not competitive.
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Old Nov 16, 2023, 11:16 am
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The Acela value proposition is not competing on price with airline travel.
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Old Nov 18, 2023, 4:44 am
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There is huge variability in Amtrak pricing. Peak trains will be pricier. That thrusday afternoon 5pm to BOS from nyp isn't available at $58 in advance like the same train on Wednesday. Prices creep up until travel.

Going from Stamford to DC, you'll likely hit high fare buckets as you are taking a seat off the bos-nyp and nyp-was. If you take a regional from Stamford to nyp and then the acela, you could save some money if the bos-nyp train is near full.

Peak Acela trains are full, but surprisingly there are a lot of empty seats on the train as it's just certain short sectors (out of nyp generally) thst are full.

Going to BOS, I've seen prices out of new haven been a lot lower on some trains, and taking a train going to Springfield or metro north could make the trip work when you can't stomach the fare Amtrak wants to charge.

I usually grab the acela if I can grab an early purchase fare, but otherwise the plane is faster and cheaper.

The AA return of the "shuttle" LGA-BOS generally has empty seats. If you are not travelling on opm, last minute award travel on aa miles or BA avios is a good deal.

If your schedule requires you to travel mid-day to the Boston area, the token gift to mass port flights to ORH are a cost effective option.
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Old Nov 21, 2023, 10:49 pm
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Here's one counterpoint to the "Acela prices never fall close-in" (or might have been a pricing error on Amtrak's part) — had to do a last-minute BOS-NYC trip last month, booked a week out and the Tuesday 7pm NYP-BBY departure was coming in at $220ish, train was showing ~50% full. Booked my ticket (flights were all $350+), but on a whim checked again the day before departure and the same trip was now $58 (train still 50% full, and the 8pm was also ), so cancelled, refunded and rebooked. Feel like this won't happen on a 90% full train, but probably doesn't hurt to check if prices have fallen very close in
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Old Nov 22, 2023, 6:17 am
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Originally Posted by physioprof
The Acela value proposition is not competing on price with airline travel.

That is also why I included "travel times" in my title. Door to door, Acela generally takes longer many airline shuttle trips. From Connecticut, I can travel to LGA in 45 minutes, fly a 1 hour LGA to BOS flight, and get to my destination in BOS in 15-20 minutes. Acela is 3 hours and 30 minutes from CT. Yeah, maybe it is a more comfortable ride, but it does take long. Plus, if you have a bit of time, airlines may have lounges and such on either end (I know Acela has lounges too, but you have to buy a first class ticket).
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Old Nov 22, 2023, 3:06 pm
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Originally Posted by Adelphos
That is also why I included "travel times" in my title. Door to door, Acela generally takes longer many airline shuttle trips. From Connecticut, I can travel to LGA in 45 minutes, fly a 1 hour LGA to BOS flight, and get to my destination in BOS in 15-20 minutes. Acela is 3 hours and 30 minutes from CT. Yeah, maybe it is a more comfortable ride, but it does take long. Plus, if you have a bit of time, airlines may have lounges and such on either end (I know Acela has lounges too, but you have to buy a first class ticket).
The time-to-travel differential between Acela and airlines under perfect flying & driving conditions isn't part of the Acela value proposition. The people who choose to travel on Acela rather than fly are responding to a rational value proposition, just not price or time (when compared to a "perfect" airline journey including getting to and from the airport). The Acela value proposition people respond to includes comfort on the train vs plane; not having to wait in security lines; embarking/disembarking in city center of WAS, BOS, NYC; ability to talk on the phone, Zoom; relative insensitivity of travel time/disruption to weather or other external circumstances; etc. The people who spend more time & money to travel on Acela are perfectly rational.
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Old Nov 29, 2023, 4:41 pm
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If you think that's bad, you should try using Brightline. Orlando's Brightline station is at the airport... so you have to park IN the airport garages and pay airport parking rates. And since it's at the airport, they have security and bag screenings, just like flying an airline. Then there's the prices. $200+ round-trip per person minimum the last time I checked. That's on top of the airport parking and such. No thanks. Even renting a car is cheaper and faster. Or for that matter, flying in a small plane is faster, less stressful, and cheaper.
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Old Dec 8, 2023, 3:21 am
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Originally Posted by truncated
Here's one counterpoint to the "Acela prices never fall close-in" (or might have been a pricing error on Amtrak's part) — had to do a last-minute BOS-NYC trip last month, booked a week out and the Tuesday 7pm NYP-BBY departure was coming in at $220ish, train was showing ~50% full. Booked my ticket (flights were all $350+), but on a whim checked again the day before departure and the same trip was now $58 (train still 50% full, and the 8pm was also ), so cancelled, refunded and rebooked. Feel like this won't happen on a 90% full train, but probably doesn't hurt to check if prices have fallen very close in
This happens a lot more commonly than people realize and PAX load has nothing to do with it. Many a times DC-NYP was showing at $144 or $179 and next thing you know it's at $74. (Acela with 90% full loads showing same day departure)

It's really too bad EF doesn't work for Amtrak.
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