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January 14, 2010

Amtrak to add WiFi to Acela Express

Amtrak announced this  week that it will add WiFi service to its Acela Express service  this  March -- but with the ominous  caveat that it would "make it available to every passenger initially free of charge.

The addition of a high-speed wireless Internet connection is encouraging -- if a little behind  the times. The Autopia blog notes that some intercity buses already offer the service, as well as JetBlue, which also operates in the Northeast Corridor.

In addition to WiFi, Amtrak also announced it will upgrade the Acela Express service  -- the nation's fastest -- by renovating the interior of its rail cars by the end of the year. Amtrak said the improvements will include  leather seating  and better tray tables and power outlets for laptop computers,

The Sun/Jed Kirschbaum

Amtrak spokeswoman Tracy Connell said the WiFi service  would be free at first and that the railroad would gauge customer  response vefore deciding whether to charge for the service.


Posted by Michael Dresser at 7:00 AM | | Comments (2)
Categories: Amtrak/intercity railroads


Acela gets WiFi. Cool. About 3 years too late, but cool.

So, can we get this WiFi on Northeast Regional, since, you know, I can actually afford to ride that one?

I looked into this last month while planning my holiday travel. I can't find the article I was reading, but it seems the reason WiFi hasn't been available on (most) trains, vs. Bolt or Megabus, is that rail lines tend to run through less populous areas. They aren't an attractive target for cellphone companies the way that highways are, therefore there isn't a signal for the train to pick up and rebroadcast locally. As cell towers get more numerous and extend their range, this will probably change.

Obviously some corridors have better coverage than others - and if Acela is covered, Northeast Regional should be too...but let's see if they make it available there without pushing the ticket prices up towards Acela prices.

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About Michael Dresser
Michael Dresser has been an editor, reporter and columnist with The Sun longer than Baltimore's had a subway. He's covered retailing, telecommunications, state politics and wine. Since 2004, he's been The Sun's transportation writer. He lives in Ellicott City with his wife and travel companion, Cindy.

His Getting There column appears on Mondays. Mike's blog will be a forum for all who are interested in highways, transit and other transportation issues affecting Baltimore, Maryland and the region.

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