Video of depressing first class train service between Boston and Washington DC.

Originally published at:


I mean, I know it’s far from perfect and that it’s common to talk thrash about Amtrak, but I just traveled on the Chepe train (the regular one, not the crazy expensive express service) and from watching this video, I certainly would have wished for some Dunkin’ Donuts coffee on my trip.


Bus rides are better. They are “cleaner”, more comfortable and faster. DC to NYC are cheap as $10.00 or as high as $30.00.


I’ve taken the Acela (but not First Class) on that trip. It takes forever, the WiFi is crappy, the food is crappy, people ignore the quiet-car rules, and it’s STILL about a hundred times more pleasant than flying. There’s legroom, the seats are marginally more comfortable than airline seats, there’s usually enough space to spread out a little bit, and it’s usually quiet enough to get some work done. DC to Boston definitely takes longer, all-in, than flying, but DC to New York or vice versa on Acela–once you factor in airport shenanigans–ends up taking about the same amount of time.


But of course, there’s infinite money for “self driving” cars which will never work.


Late stage capitalism in action; all “first class” means on Amtrak is that you pay more to actually lay down in an uncomfortable cubby hole while sleeping, instead of sitting upright in your seat.


I’m calling BS on that.

Cheaper and faster, yes, but even the coach seats on Amtrak are huge and have tons of recline, and the ride is super smooth and quiet compared to a bus.


We took the shinkansen from Tokyo to Osaka several years ago and it’s a wonderful way to travel. Shame it can’t be replicated elsewhere. It’d be fun to see one of these food carts on the Acela

Of course the best food is on the train platforms themselves. A very fresh and tasty bento box (or ekiben) is about ¥1000 ($10 bucks). They are so good!


Last one I took had new comfy seats that reclined so, I was comfortable enough.

I liked taking the Vamoosebus. It’s run by some Hasidic Jews and I liked to imagine that they were using the buses to transport bags of diamonds to the market in NYC. It made the trip more interesting.


China did a pretty good job. The design of the major stations is crappy (way too big, you have to walk what feels like miles through the station and up and down many enormous escalators to get to your train), and the snacks aren’t great, but the ride is perfectly smooth and silent and you get where you’re going at insane speeds.


I assume you mean that it is politically un-possible in the US. Europe and China basically have the same thing.


Fair enough. Also, I forgot that there are some exceptions… “Amtrak California” trains aren’t really Amtrak services, they’re operated by Amtrak for Caltrans, and have much less comfortable seating (less legroom and less/no recline). But they’re Amtrak branded and you can buy tickets through Amtrak so it gets confusing.

The actual Amtrak services (interstate) have really nice seating, though.


If you want some adventure, take the Double Happiness bus from Albany to NYC. Driver is texting on his phone non stop. We did make it there in one piece and it cost like 20 bucks.


Bus rides are better.

I think this depends a lot on the bus line. I made the mistake of taking Megabus one time. They successfully imported most of the worst parts of being on an airplane onto a bus. But I’ve had good luck with other bus lines. I take Concord Coach Lines between Boston and Maine a couple times a year and while the broad availability of personal screens has made the “Hey we show you a movie on this bus!” part of the program less appealing, it’s still a pretty pleasant trip.


I took a bus (I think it was Greyhound) from Boston to Burlington, VT once. I missed the first one because my ticket was from Greyhound but the bus had some different branding and nobody made any announcement to explain that.

When I caught the next bus hours later, the driver explained that he was a substitute who’d never driven the route before. He didn’t have any maps or GPS or anything, though (and this was in the early days of smartphones where they couldn’t reliably be used for navigation). So we’d just drive north until he saw a sign for the town he was supposed to stop in, and then drive around looking for signs for the greyhound bus stop. Once we missed an exit and wasted an hour backtracking.

Dinner was a stop at a gas station which sold Chef Boyardee TV dinners and had a microwave.


Ah, but not as good as the Honeydukes Express!


Once one a Greyhound trip between NYC and Boston the driver got lost in the Bronx. After the second time we passed Yankee Stadium, the driver actually asked the passengers for directions.

There is basically no good way to travel the Washington-Boston corridor.


Not actually true, but please don’t let that get in the way of your opinions.

First class on Acela has much larger, more comfortable seats (2+1 rather than 2+2), free food and drinks, table / seat service, lounge access etc. etc.

Is it as good as the equivalent on European and Japanese trains? Not even close. It is better than the equivalent in the UK (although that’s a very low bar) and it is infinitely better than flying or driving between Boston and NYC or between DC and NYC. If I had to go DC to Boston, though, I would fly.

The main issue is with the underlying railbed and the fact that there are still at-grade crossings in New London county in CT which limits speed and is uneven and rough along the entire length of the journey. The track also runs right at sea level for large parts of the journey through CT and RI which is obviously going to be problematic in the future as sea level rises.

However, the bottom line is that many Acela trains are sold out days in advance and first class is almost always full.


It’s not just the travel time that’s better on a Shinkansen from Tokyo to Kyoto. You can reserve a ticket for the equivalent of $125.

Boston to DC on the Acela is $221 minimum and $370 - $400+ for First Class.


I’m with you up to Dunkin’ Donuts coffee, which is actually quite good.