En Route

Why I love the Acela Express

At New York's LaGuardia Airport, my plane is delayed, passengers are furious, and chaos reigns. But two hours later, on board the Acela Express in First Class, all is serene. There is ample lighting, an electrical outlet at each wide, reclining seat, and a tray table big enough for a laptop. The bathrooms are impeccably clean, there's a café, even a "quiet car," where men in expensive pinstripes reading The New York Times shoot cutting glances at anyone who so much as looks at her cell phone. As the train rumbles along, courteous stewards in vests and bow ties serve lamb shank, focaccia, and Absolut and tonic in real glasses. The Acela Express runs ten times a day between New York's Penn Station and Boston (three and a half hours; $365 round trip) and 12 times a day between New York and Washington, D.C. (two hours and 45 minutes; $446). A first-class ticket also gains you access to the stations' Acela clubs. It was at the Boston club—when the desk clerk called a porter, who whisked my and my fellow passengers' luggage off to the first-class compartment—that I felt like Fred Astaire, once upon a time, on the 20th-Century Limited.