Well I’ve been having hard drive problems with my small portable hard drives (one is corrupted, one has the connection loose) accessing my photo archive which is why I have had such a long lull on updates.
I did though go on an Amtrak points run two days ago, this past Wednesday, which I booked intending to be the start of two days for railfanning the MBTA. The main reason is because I’m 846 points away from Select Plus Status and Wednesday is basically the last day to use the upgrade coupons I received for making it to Select earlier this year and this 750 plus 100 extra TQP bonus that will get me 850 TQP points for this trip and Select Plus! I’m headed back up to the Boston area in a few hours for family reasons but ended up having stuff to do on Thursday and decided I might as well just do the points run instead (a New York to Boston ticket is the cheapest Acela ticket that is a select city pair for earning the 500/750 bonus base rail points, New York to Washington is $50 more!) and compare the services of the Acela First Class up and Fung Wah bus back.
I should add that I boarded Acela in Newark, the ticket was the same price and I was curious if I could also get breakfast out of the crew during the 10 minute ride plus 20 minute layover in Penn Station when things were restocked. I didn’t and just got a second hot towel service for my efforts.
I realize its not that fare a comparison but thought it might be slightly amusing and perhaps useful:
|Amtrak Acela Express First Class||Fung Wah Bus|
|Price:||$108 and up to $178 Rail Fare
Plus $80 accommodation charge for First Class or an Upgrade Coupon (my source)
|$15 always open ticket, valid anytime for 7 days after purchase|
|Travel Time:||3 hours and 36 minutes (train was ten minutes early) New York-Penn Station to South Station||3 hours and 58 minutes
South Station to the Canal Street at the foot of the Manhattan Bridge, Without Traffic
|Stops:||5: Stamford, New Haven, Providence, Route 128, Back Bay||1: A Service Area on the Connecticut Turnpike (I-95)|
|Motion:||Quite jurky between New Rochelle and New Haven where Metro-North requires Acela to turn off its tilting mechanism. Actually smoother on the much faster New Haven to Boston section||Feeling all the bumps on a rubber tired road, especially because the driver was speeding|
|Seating:||2 by 1 Leather Seating, all seats have a tray table or seats across have a an actual table. I sat at a 1×1 table.||2 by 2 generic cloth bus seats.|
|Legroom:||Amtrak claims 42” of seat pitch for non-table seats in first class with a large chunky footrest, I put my feet up (shoes off of course) and could just get my feet up on the second seat.
Still less than long distance Superliner Coach seats
|Minimal, probably like 30-31 inches. I couldn’t imagine getting stuck on the window doubling-up with someone|
|Food:||Included: I was served by two attendants on real china: first mixed nuts, then a tiny but tasty steak dish with a roll and Creme Brulle moose for desert. I was still hungry and ordered the Seafood Pasta, also small and good with the same roll and desert.||Buy/Bring your own:
Something in food court at South Station
McDonalds or Ducken Donuts at the Rest Stop in Connecticut
|Drinks:||Unlimited non-alcoholic and alcoholic beverages including beer, wine, and hard liquor. My one attempt at an adult beverage was some not so good white wine, I did||Had a sip from the water fountain at the Rest Stop|
|Lighting (tie, both fit my mood):||Harsh, strong florescent lighting, great for seeing your food or a book, not great for sleeping. Also an individual reading light but there was no reason to turn mine on.||Quite dark, even with the reading light on. It would be quite hard to read.|
|Windows/Shading:||Double the size of the tiny Amfleet-I windows, from just above the armrest to just below the overhead bin, about two feet tall.||From about my waste to just below the overhead luggage rack of the bus, had one of the semi-translucent drop down blinds|
|Productivity:||A tray table or actual table, plus electrical outlets. Marginal wi-fi via AmtrakConnect||Nothing: no tray tables, wi-fi or electrical outlets (competitor bus companies do have these)|
|Solitude:||Fairly but not library quiet: After most meal service was completed most of the people traveling together had stopped chatting and the car was fairly quiet (not quite as much as the nearby Quiet Car), occasionally someone would be on their cell phone. They should have gone into the phone booth still at the end of the car, complete with an icon for if its occupied to make calls.||The women in front of me spent most of her ride on her cell phone yapping away. Also heard the driver on his phone quite a bit in Chinese.|
|Dress and Company: (not judging)||Business attire. Everyone was well dressed jackets and ties the norm for the gentlemen. I was defiantly the youngest by a few years||Casual: A mix range of ages, about a quarter Asian. No one in a suit.|
|After Stamford every set of seats were taken, it didn’t appear that anyone not traveling together had to double-up.||Every set of seats were taken I believe, noticed one person having to double-up.|
|Bathrooms:||Large, Nice and Clean. The Bathroom on Acela even has a frosted window letting natural light in, plus both hand towels, and a hand dryer.
In the station ClubAcela had one of the nicer bathrooms I’ve been in in a busy station (Not as nice as some in small towns). You also get a hot towel before arriving in New York and Boston on Acela (if you detrain earlier your out of luck).
|Didn’t use, assume one existed, I never went farther back than row 2. I always avoid bus restrooms, there generally small and disgusting and often stink.
Bus Terminal restrooms also often leave something to be desired (I didn’t use one at South Station).
|Waiting Area:||ClubAcela: a separate and quiet waiting lounge from the bustle of the station with a soda machine, pretzels and breakfast pastries.||A few normal chairs by the boarding gate in South Station. In New York your stuck waiting outside on the street.|
Bottom Line: If there was traffic I bet the bus ride would have taken a lot longer but the driver was extremely aggressive and even drove through a rest area on I-84 to skip to the front of a merge because of construction. It probably would have been farer to compare Acela to a bus like the LimoLiner ($89 which claims to include a light meal, a large recliner and an attendant), or even MegaBus and BultBus since those two carriers have outlets and wi-fi and are actually usually cheeper (except on a busy travel day like the Wednesday before Christmas).
I can say this if your trying to read a book or have a tray table to spread out at and want to be productive take the train. The train is definitely more comfortable. In terms of the Regional vs. Acela vs. Acela First Class Question. I can’t say I would every actually pay the $80 for the upgrade from Acela Business to First. The only reason would be for the unlimited boos if your that much of an alcoholic. The main reason I would pay to upgrade from the Regional to Acela is if the price wasn’t that much more and I want the AGR points to maintain status 100 vs. 500. If you can plan and purchase 14 days ahead you can buy readily available $49 tickets. I should also add that Acela is a more modern train, although I find the cloth seats on the Regional more comfortable than the leather ones on Acela. The lighting is harsher than the Acelas but the ride smoother north of New Haven where the train can use its tilting mechanism. Another benefit of the Acela is the windows are double the size.
If you want basic transportation from point A to B and are cost conscious take another bus line. Although the ride will probably be more than 22 minutes longer than the Acela expect in the evening like mine since there will probably be traffic somewhere. I will probably save Fung Wah to days like today when the other bus lines were all more than $15. I was though presently surprised on how empty the bus was. Having to double-up on buses is even worse for me than trains. I will say its Chinatown Manhattan Bridge departure point was great because it saved dealing with local streets heading uptown through Manhattan which adds lots of time. BoltBus, MegaBus, and even the new Greyhound Express Buses (although these are often jammed packed) have slightly more comfortable seats and electrical outlets normally work. The wifi is actually better it seems than on Amtrak but the seats are so cramped its hard to use a computer at one (None of these buses have tray tables).
Here is the full list of my blog posts detailing the day, two-days ago Wednesday, November 19:
- The Adventure of the two agents, (one on the phone, one at the station) processing my upgrade, and the Subway to PATH out to Newark where I booked my ticket from for no additional charge
- A 4 Hour Full Stomach, and Hydrated Ride on Acela Express First Class from Newark to Boston
- An Evening Fung Wah Ride Back from Boston, Just 22 minutes slower!