Amtrak Acela needs improvement

2 minute read

Despite some Amtrak Acela trains being “sold out” on the Northeast Corridor at popular times, more growth is possible for Amtrak. Acela Express First class costs up to $461 for a one-way ticket BOSWAS. Amtrak shouldn’t simply say we don’t have enough trains, as increasing demand allow raising ticket prices.

Here are the most outstanding categories needing improvement on Amtrak.

Trash/restrooms

One of the biggest Amtrak complaints (over all routes) is over restroom conditions. The floors are not usually cleaned en route. On longer Regional routes, one sees towel trash overflowing onto the restroom floor.

Disposable gloves, disinfectant spray, Swiffers and cordless sweepers should be provided and the contract should specify their en route use. Hopefully the refurbished coach cars restroom flooring will help odors on standard NE Regional Amtrak coaches.

WiFi

Amtrak Acela WiFi was recently greatly improved, though is still congested at peak travel times. Northeast Regional (non-Acela) train WiFi is still unusable for casual web browsing, even before departing in an almost empty Business-class car.

On-board service staff

Many Amtrak complaints could be resolved by having an on-board service (OBS) chief. The Auto Train is the only Amtrak route remaining with an OBS chief, providing a single-point escalation of customer service issues. An OBS Chief helps keep Amtrak service staff up to standards.

Acela OBS

Even in Acela Express First Class, OBS (on board service staff) attitudes can be surly or brusque. Some pretend not to know what hot towel service is, despite the top-line billing of hot towel service on the Acela website.

Amtrak should institute a “secret rider” program, giving out swag (e.g. free AGR points) to paying Acela Express First Class customers and have them note service deficiencies.

Conductor attitudes

I have consistently observed that Amtrak state-contract routes such as:

  • Michigan Service
  • Shore Line East (CT)
  • Downeaster

have conductors with a vastly better attitude and treatment of customers than the Amtrak-owned routes. Some of the rudest conductors are on the Northeast Corridor. Some examples:

  • rudely awakening passengers on 66/67 at NYP for tickets, even when the tickets are left on the tray or seatback
  • rude treatment of late-upgraded first class Acela Express when upgrade didn’t show in system
  • taking up one booth per conductor or conductor pair in the café car, especially when all other booths are full

Maintenance

Even in Acela Express first class, I have observed:

  • seat window curtains: tattered and frayed at the bottom.
  • lavatory mirror deeply scratched and corroded
  • doors to vestibule not able to stay closed

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