D.C.-bound Acela riders gain 10 minutes

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(AP) — The morning train ride between New York and Washington just got 10 minutes shorter.

Amtrak recently began offering once-a-day Acela Express service between the two cities that stops only in Philadelphia. The move shaves 6 percent off the trip time of a standard five-stop ride, which takes two hours and 45 minutes.

The special weekday Acela service, which is intended to appeal to business travelers, was added quietly to Amtrak’s schedule in July.

“We wanted to make sure that we could consistently meet the schedule” before promoting the service later this year, Amtrak spokeswoman Karina Romero said.

Amtrak will not charge more for the service, Ms. Romero said, and at the moment, only one round trip per day is planned.

Passenger-demand statistics for the new service are not yet available, though Acela riders interviewed today at the District’s Union Station had mixed opinions.

Andy Demers, who works for an economic consulting firm in Washington, said the time saved on the new express service isn’t that big a deal.

“Maybe the 10 minutes makes a difference to some people,” Mr. Demers said as he prepared to board a regular Acela train to New York. “It wouldn’t make a difference to me.”

The new weekday one-stop service leaves New York’s Penn Station at 6:50 a.m., stops in Philadelphia at 7:53 a.m. and arrives at Union Station at 9:25 a.m. In the evening, it leaves Washington at 3:55 p.m., stops in Philadelphia at 5:20 p.m. and arrives in New York at 6:30 p.m.

Chas Roades of Virginia, who was headed up to New York today for a sightseeing trip with his 10-year-old son, said Amtrak should add a morning trip that originates in Washington.

“I don’t think you could get people to pay more for it, but I do think more options [are] better,” Mr. Roades said.

Acela ridership is on the rise this year amid high gasoline prices and frustrations with rising air-travel delays.

In July, 258,000 passengers rode Acela along the Boston-Washington corridor, an increase of 27 percent from last year, according to Amtrak.

The increased traffic comes despite operational difficulties.

Two years ago, the premium Acela service was taken down for three months following the discovery of cracks in many of the trains’ brake discs. Last summer, Amtrak shut down power outlets in Acela trains after problems with short-circuits.

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