The Acela Express Runs Between Washington, DC and Boston
Rail travel is a widely overlooked mode of transportation in much of the country. When Americans want to cover short distances, they use cars. If they need to travel across the country, they will usually fly.
Nevertheless, trains remain a mainstay of travel along the northeast seaboard, connecting Washington D.C., Baltimore, Philadelphia, New York, and Boston. Amtrak, the National Railroad Passenger Corporation, operates nearly all the express and long-distance passenger trains, although local agencies do run some regional and suburban services. Currently, Amtrak is introducing 20 high-speed Express trains, capable of speeds up to 240 kph (150 mph), reducing the Washington to New York trip to two and one half hours, and the New York to Boston trip to three hours.
The rest of the U.S. is like a different country from the densely populated northeast when it comes to train travel. Generally, trains run once daily over a small number of long-distance routes. Chicago is the central rail hub, with routes fanning out over the rest of the U.S., the primary ones being to:
Seattle, Portland, Oakland (San Francisco), and Los Angeles (via Omaha--Denver--Salt Lake City--Las Vegas, or via Kansas City--Albuquerque--Flagstaff)
New Orleans and San Antonio (via St. Louis and Dallas/Ft. Worth)
San Antonio and Los Angeles are linked via El Paso, Tucson, and Phoenix.
There is a train from Los Angeles to New Orleans that usually runs three times a week.
Most trains offer one-class seating (comparable to top-rate second class travel in Europe) and air-conditioning, and a range of sleeping accommodations for payment of an additional fare. Long-distance trains all have dining facilities, and often pass through spectacular scenery, especially along east--west routes.
Discount fares are available. The USA Rail Pass, designed specifically for international travelers, entitles the bearer to unlimited travel for terms of 15 or 30 days, on either a regional or national basis. The passes must be purchased outside the U.S. prior to entry. There has been a recent upsurge in rail travel in the U.S., in both commuter and regional transportation, and this trend is expected to continue with growth and modernization.
Terminals are located downtown, usually closer to your hotel than airports are, so total travel time may be shorter than flying. For further details, contact:
Note: For those expecting European- or Japanese-style on-time, high-speed performance, brace yourselves for a new experience. Long-distance rail travel in North America is notoriously slow and expensive.