Travelers board an Amtrak train at Union Station in Washington,...

Travelers board an Amtrak train at Union Station in Washington, D.C.  Credit: Getty Images/Kevin Dietsch

In March, when Amtrak announced it was expanding its Northeast Regional service between New York’s Penn Station and Union Station in Washington, D.C., adding four round-trips on weekdays and one on Sundays due to increased ridership, the question on everyone’s lips was, will the trips be cheaper? OK, no one was asking that question but me, everyone else having determined long ago that there is no correlation between increased service and lower prices, but I couldn’t help asking it anyway.

Reason being: I love taking the train to D.C. Yes, you can fly from LaGuardia to Reagan National in just 76 minutes for as little as $89 one way on, say, American, but both figures are misleading. Time-wise, you have to factor in the need to arrive two hours early for domestic flights — insurance against LaGuardia’s often lengthy security lines — and 45 minutes minimum for the trip from DCA to downtown D.C. And price-wise, whereas Amtrak lets you check two bags for free, checking just one with an economy ticket on American will set you back $40. One-way total: $129 and four hours of your time.

Perhaps that’s what’s behind the 8% increase in Amtrak ridership over pre-pandemic numbers, and thus the increase in Northeast Regional service — there are now 22 round-trip trains on weekdays and 20 on weekends. Even non-Acela trips on Amtrak can take as little as three hours, 16 minutes if the wind is at your back and — fingers crossed — there are no delays (although Amtrak trains overall arrive on time only about 74% of the time, according to the most recent numbers). And while one-way coach prices can be as much as $174 from Penn to D.C., they can also be as little as $20.

That’s right, $20. True, to get that fare you may have to book your ticket a month in advance, travel on a weekday and at a most inconvenient time — cheap trains tend to either depart or arrive in the middle of the night — but it can be done. And for $35 you can travel at a more reasonable hour — as long as you book in advance. That’s less than the tolls alone would cost you from Long Island to D.C. if you drive yourself.

Indeed, the only way to get there cheaper is by bus. Greyhound’s one-way fares (one under-bus bag included) from New York’s Port Authority to Union Station can be a rock-bottom $8.99 when booked in advance, the only downside there being that, well, you have to take the bus.

For information on Amtrak’s fares and to book a trip, visit


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