Traveling in the Northeast – Amtrak Revisited
I’m delaying the next post in the series of hotel program reviews to revisit the topic of traveling in the very congested Northeast Corridor between Boston and Philadelphia or even Washington DC. I first wrote about traveling on Amtrak this past summer when I was going back and forth between New York and Providence or Boston about every other week. With the holidays in full swing, I’ve found myself taking the train quite a bit once again as I go back and forth between working in New York and visiting family in Massachusetts.
The answer to the question of which mode of transportation to take when traveling in the northeast has not changed since my last post: Amtrak is by far the easiest and most comfortable way to get up and down the coast. However, my preference for train travel is much stronger than it was this summer now that I have seen first-hand what it’s like during the holidays to travel along I-95. Over the past month I’ve taken four round-trips to Boston and will taking another trip down to Washington DC in the next week from New York. Of the four trips that I’ve taken, there has been a combined delay of maybe half an hour – there was a 20 minute delay on the Wednesday before Thanksgiving, but that’s really been it. Compare that to the hours and hours spent waiting for four years in the Philadelphia airport when I used to fly home from college – never again! For the three and a half to four hour trip down to New York, I can watch a movie on my laptop, which is plugged in so I don’t have to worry about my battery dying, or I can get some work done with the (marginally useful) WiFi. I can get a snack and drink from the Café Car or just sleep: all while never stopping. When I took the train back to New York after Christmas, there was some bad weather that had most of the coast worried about driving conditions. My train wasn’t late by a minute. We left Boston right on time and arrived at Penn Station without a single delay. Compare that to…
…My brother who had driven up to Massachusetts from New Jersey with his wife. They left Boston at 1:00 in his car. They didn’t get home to New Jersey until past 8:00, a drive that should have only taken about four hours. That’s a three or more hour delay. Compare that to me leaving Boston at 5:45 and getting into Penn Station right on schedule at 9:50 – no delay and almost as fast as driving with no traffic. There is one downside to taking the train and that is Penn Station in New York. Because Penn Station is so large, you don’t know the platform a train is leaving from until 10-15 minutes before departure. When they finally announce the platform, there is a mad-rush to be the first one on board the train for the best seats. While it’s not a horrible experience most of the time, when it is busy as it was over this holiday period it can be quite a stressful experience. However, if you don’t care to get the “best seat” then there isn’t much to worry about because you can just wait for the crazies to get on the train. Nevertheless, because Penn Station is so big, I would definitely suggest getting there 20-25 minutes ahead of time just to make sure you find the waiting area in order to see which platform you’re leaving from.
Overall, I have to say that traveling on Amtrak has been a great experience for me time and time again. It will be my go to choice whenever I need to get up to Boston or down to Washington DC while I’m living in New York. If you’re looking to take a longer trip on Amtrak (overnight with a sleeper car) you can read Howie’s review of his trip with Rick on the Coast Starlight from Los Angeles to Seattle this past October.