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Amtrak to Launch Nonstop Acela Service Between New York and Washington, DC

July 25, 2019
5 min read
Amtrak to Launch Nonstop Acela Service Between New York and Washington, DC
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While flight delays are on the rise, and the idea of a high-speed hyperloop is still a pipe dream, those along the Northeast corridor have a new option to get between the biggest city in the US and the nations's capital.

On Thursday, Amtrak announced the launch of nonstop service between New York Penn Station and Washington, DC's Union Station with its high-speed Acela train. The new service will make zero stops between the two cities, cutting travel time from three hours down to about two hours and 35 minutes.

The weekday-only service will begin on Sep. 23. The southbound train will depart from New York at 6:35am and is scheduled to arrive in Washington around 9:10am. The nonstop return train will depart Union Station at 4:30pm and arrive at Penn Station around 7:05pm.

The Acela was already marketed to business travelers, and departure times appear to indicate that the nonstop service is catering to the same group — those who want to spend a whole day in Washington but be back in time for dinner in New York.

The Northeast Corridor, which runs from Washington to Boston, is one of Amtrak’s most-profitable routes, and it’s the only route the high-speed Acela runs on. In 2018, New York Penn and Washington’s Union Station were Amtrak’s top two busiest stations across the national network.

The train uses special technology to go faster on tracks that aren’t made for traditional high-speed cars, and also cuts down on time by making fewer stops than the slower and less expensive regional trains.

Passengers can expect the same hard product as other Acela trains, so first and business class configurations will remain untouched and the quiet car and dining car will still be available.

Acela First Class. (Photo by Scott Mayerowitz / The Points Guy)

However, there will be a change in the soft product, said Roger Harris, Executive Vice President, Chief Marketing and Revenue Officer of Amtrak. Amtrak wouldn’t confirm any items that customers might expect to receive, offering those details closer to the launch date.

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Amtrak also plans on introducing new trains in 2021 that will be able to reach even higher speeds than current models. This could cut down travel times on the new route even more, said Harris, but there are still infrastructure concerns that make it unclear exactly how fast nonstop service can ultimately be on this route.

With the new trains, Amtrak will have increased capacity to run additional nonstop services, but for now it's limited because of a lack of cars.

"This one trip is all we can manage from an availability point of view," said Harris. "This is just the most we could do with our current fleet.”

Once the new trains arrive, they'll operate nonstop service between New York and Boston, and Harris says the train operator will consider adding morning trains originating in DC and returning from New York in the late afternoon. Amtrak also said it'll likely increase frequency of the new service and left open the possibility for other nonstop routes.

This is one of the ways Amtrak's been working to innovate its offerings, and the new train will be introduced around the same time of the new Moynihan Train Hall in New York City, alongside a new Metropolitan Lounge and other renovations of Penn Station (including a refreshed Club Acela).

Related: The 6 Best Cards for Travel Purchases (Including Trains)

It makes the ever-present debate of what's the best way to travel between the two cities a bit clearer. TPG recently tested five methods of transit on the same route — while the American Shuttle from LaGuardia to DCA beat the Acela, this new nonstop service would have you arriving at about the same time — and the Acela is much more immune to delays and takes you directly into each city's center.

However, don't expect this to be all good news. Harris said that the trains would still be subject to dynamic pricing, and it's all but certain there will be a huge demand for this new service.

Tickets go on sale on Thursday, and you should be able to redeem Amtrak points for a seat on the exclusive train. If you don't have any points, you're best off putting the purchase on card that earns bonus points on train travel, like the Chase Sapphire Reserve which earns 3 points per dollar spent on travel.

Featured image by Bloomberg via Getty Images
Editorial disclaimer: Opinions expressed here are the author’s alone, not those of any bank, credit card issuer, airline or hotel chain, and have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by any of these entities.

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Card Rating is based on the opinion of TPG‘s editors and is not influenced by the card issuer.
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The Capital One Venture X card is one of the best all-round travel credit cards ever launched. Not only is it offering a tremendous welcome bonus, but cardholders can earn tons of miles on everyday spending and receive a 10,000-mile anniversary bonus to boot. Its annual fee is $395, but cardholders can count on up to $300 in statement credits toward travel booked through Capital One Travel each year and other valuable benefits like access to Priority Pass lounges and Capital One’s own growing family of airport lounges.

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  • Excellent welcome offer worth 75,000 miles after you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first three months.
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  • 10,000 bonus miles (worth $100 toward travel) each account anniversary.

Cons

  • The $395 annual fee might be expensive for some, but this card’s benefits provide much more value than that.
  • If you don’t travel frequently, this might not be the best card for you.
  • Earn 75,000 bonus miles when you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening, equal to $750 in travel
  • Receive up to $300 back annually as statement credits for bookings through Capital One Travel, where you'll get Capital One's best prices on thousands of options
  • Get 10,000 bonus miles (equal to $100 towards travel) every year, starting on your first anniversary
  • Earn unlimited 10X miles on hotels and rental cars booked through Capital One Travel and 5X miles on flights booked through Capital One Travel
  • Earn unlimited 2X miles on all other purchases
  • Unlimited complimentary access for you and two guests to 1,400+ lounges, including Capital One Lounges and our Partner Lounge Network
  • Receive up to a $100 credit for Global Entry or TSA PreCheck®
  • Use your Venture X miles to easily cover travel expenses, including flights, hotels, rental cars and more—you can even transfer your miles to your choice of 15+ travel loyalty programs
  • Named editors' choice for "Best New Credit Card of 2021" by The Points Guy
  • Earn 10 miles per dollar when you book on Turo, the world's largest car sharing marketplace, through May 16, 2023