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ACES train service between Atlantic City and New York could end this year


Forest Glen

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ATLANTIC CITY - ACES has a catchy name, affordable fares and plush leather seats. Unfortunately, the casino-funded rail service from Atlantic City to New York has lacked a crucial component - passengers.

 

The Atlantic City Express Service, dubbed ACES, has been unprofitable since it debuted in February 2009. Harrah's Resort, Caesars Atlantic City and Borgata Hotel Casino & Spa - the casinos that underwrite the route - have an agreement with state rail operator NJ Transit to run the trains for three years.

 

After a winter shutdown caused by low ridership, the luxury rail route has resumed weekend service for the summer, but already there are predictions that the end of the line may be coming soon.

 

"I will predict it will last no longer than the scheduled three-year run through February 2012. They may, in fact, terminate it at the end of summer," said Anthony Marino, a transportation analyst who compiled Atlantic City's annual tourism statistics for 25 years before retiring as an Atlantic City Expressway executive in 2003.

 

Despite Marino's gloomy forecast, a casino executive involved in the ACES marketing campaign offered a more optimistic outlook. Jennifer Weissman, regional vice president of marketing for Caesars Entertainment Corp., released a statement saying "ridership projections look very favorable for the summer."

 

She disputed suggestions the line fell short of expectations.

 

"The service has always lived up to our projections for occupancy," Weissman said. "We are pleased with the ridership and believe operating on a seasonal schedule will allow ACES to more effectively meet the needs of visitors who are seeking a convenient, unique and affordable way to visit Atlantic City."

 

As has been their policy in the past, the casinos did not disclose specific ridership numbers. But Casino executives have stressed that fare revenue was not supposed to cover the rail line's operating costs. Instead, the goal is to draw New York customers who ordinarily would not travel to Atlantic City because they lacka car or do not want to ride the bus.

 

"The ACES train was developed to provide New Yorkers an easy and affordable way to visit Atlantic City," Weissman said. "These visitors to Atlantic City not only pay for the fare to ride ACES, but they also frequent all of our casinos, dine in all of our restaurants and enjoy the unique entertainment offerings throughout the region."

 

Double-decker train cars - holding as many as 300 passengers and equipped with leather seats - whisk riders between Manhattan and Atlantic City in 2½ hours, although trip time can stretch to nearly three hours depending on the departure time. There is a stop in Newark.

 

This summer, a total of 10 trips will operate between New York's Penn Station and Atlantic City on Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays. The service began with 18 trips in 2009 but was cut to 11 by the end of that year.

 

Coach fares range from $29 to $69, with first-class tickets costing an extra $20. The ACES website beckons passengers with the slogan "All Afford!" Fares originally cost $50 for coach and $75 for first class, but were reduced later in 2009 to make them more attractive.

 

"They immediately learned that they had to cut the cost," Marino said. "But it's still expensive compared to Greyhound and the perceived cost of car travel."

 

Marino argued that train travel time is too slow compared to cars and buses. He said the ACES trains often encounter delays leaving congested Penn Station and are held up even more because the regularly scheduled Amtrak and NJ Transit routes are given higher priority on the tracks. Furthermore, the ACES trains must switch from an electrified line to diesel locomotives once they cross over the Delaware River, causing even more delays, he said.

 

"They can't run the train in a timeline that makes sense because in New Jersey they have to convert from electric power to diesel," Marino said.

 

Scheduling changes eliminated a train that made it more convenient for Atlantic City travelers to head to New York, Marino said. New York-bound trains are not timed for day trips to the Big Apple, forcing Atlantic City locals to stay overnight to catch the train home. However, Weissman said the trains are still used for weekend getaways to New York.

 

"While the overarching strategy of the ACES train has always been to bring new customers and visitors to Atlantic City from New York City, we do see riders taking the train from Atlantic City for weekend excursions," she said. "We are happy to provide this convenient and direct service to New York City for our local community of riders."

 

ACES is not the first train service to cater to casino-bound passengers. Amtrak ran the ill-fated "Gamblers' Express" trains from cities in the Northeast for six years before ending the service in 1995 due to poor ridership and millions in losses. Marino says the casinos involved with the ACES service should have learned from Amtrak's failure.

 

"They had a historical precedent called the Gamblers' Express that should have been a sign, at the peak of Atlantic City's popularity in the 1990s, that train service from New York couldn't compete," he said. "Why would anyone expect ACES to do well now when Atlantic City is currently in the doldrums?"

 

Marino criticized the rail line's business plan as poorly conceived because it was "divorced from the reality that people don't use rail for recreational travel."

 

"It's bizarre that casinos would rather have their customers spend money on transportation than on gambling," he said. "It never made sense to me, their marketing plan."

 

Although he is critical of the casinos' business strategy, Marino counts himself as an ACES supporter. He stressed that he wants to see the rail line succeed and has used it for trips to New York.

 

"I do give them kudos for trying to aggressively market the trains," he said of the casinos. "But it was up against tough odds."

 

Weissman did not respond to an email question asking whether ACES would continue after this summer.

 

"We are pleased with the ridership stemming from this season's new route schedule," she wrote. "The new schedule is one that is more closely aligned with customer demand."

 

At least one frequent rider said he would be upset if the service were cut.

 

Larry Barnes, 60, of Newark, said he takes the train a few times a month when he travels between Newark and Atlantic City on business.

 

"It's clean, convenient, comfortable and you don't have to deal with traffic on the roads," Barnes said.

 

Asked what he would do if the service were canceled, Barnes shook his head.

 

"You got me," he said. "It'll make things more difficult. That's for sure."

 

Contact Donald Wittkowski:

 

609-272-7258

 

DWittkowski@pressofac.com

 

http://www.pressofatlanticcity.com/communities/atlantic-city_pleasantville_brigantine/aces-train-service-between-atlantic-city-and-new-york-could/article_2862ed9c-9c7b-11e0-a2d4-001cc4c03286.html

 

Besides their inconvenient schedule and indirect route, ACES was hurt by the proliferation of other regional casinos such as Foxwoods and Mohegan Sun. I saw this coming.

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Affordable to who, is the question....

 

Atlantic city, as a major destination for NYC residents just isn't the case anymore... People stopped throwing (charter) bus trips out there for a reason, and it has a lot to do w/ how poor the casino industry is doin.... Internet Gambling has overtaken gambling in casino's, and I don't know of anyone that needs ACES to go on the internet !

 

It would be wise for ACES to pull out; and I have to side w/ ole dude that said they should have learned from the Gambler's Express (which I faintly remember hearing of).... Rail is designed to carry large amounts of ppl to a particular destination... When "large amounts of ppl" aren't traveling b/w Atlantic city & NYC (in any capacity, whether it be by bus, rail, personal vehicle) like that, why keep the service running...

 

Especially if that's the sole focus of that particular mode of transportation....

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....No way this was going to last. Too many people take NJT(319), Academy(319, they have direct casino service), Greyhound who has a bonus program you get back if you take a direct Ballys Casino bus. You pay $38 for a ticket, you get back $20, however idk if that rate is still the same. Then you have people who charter buses through Saddle River, and the millions of buses to AC. Even people that aint even going to a casino would take a Ballys bus just to get back that $20.

 

This was a stupid idea. Too many people know its easier to take the bus already which is a one seat ride in most cases and a 2hr 10min ride. Who wants to sit on a train that gets no priority, and for 3hrs at that......

 

As for whom, lol business people. What person with limited funds will take ACES. They gona hop right on Greyhound/Academy/NJT; some will even go as far as to taking path to Newark for a 319 just so they dont gotta pay that New York zone. That guy I bet took the 319 from Newark and or 67X Toms River and 559 AC vise versa before ACES.

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End of the year? Yeah more like in Sept, since it now runs ONLY from May to Sept.

 

I better get my shots a videos, don't wanna miss the ACES. (And maybe a ride on that joint)

 

To bad there isn't away to get the ACES to run straight diesel and have someway to avoid going via the Frankford Junction in Philly. Go from NEC to the Atlantic ROW instead of switching between the ALP44 to/from P40.

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....No way this was going to last. Too many people take NJT(319), Academy(319, they have direct casino service), Greyhound who has a bonus program you get back if you take a direct Ballys Casino bus. You pay $38 for a ticket, you get back $20, however idk if that rate is still the same. Then you have people who charter buses through Saddle River, and the millions of buses to AC. Even people that aint even going to a casino would take a Ballys bus just to get back that $20.

 

This was a stupid idea. Too many people know its easier to take the bus already which is a one seat ride in most cases and a 2hr 10min ride. Who wants to sit on a train that gets no priority, and for 3hrs at that......

 

As for whom, lol business people. What person with limited funds will take ACES. They gona hop right on Greyhound/Academy/NJT; some will even go as far as to taking path to Newark for a 319 just so they dont gotta pay that New York zone. That guy I bet took the 319 from Newark and or 67X Toms River and 559 AC vise versa before ACES.

So true I was wondering why they even bothered smh ACES= EPIC FAIL!!!!! Trains only work if they are FASTER than the bus NO one will use a slower train vs a faster bus or vice versa.:cool:

 

Affordable to who, is the question....

 

Atlantic city, as a major destination for NYC residents just isn't the case anymore... People stopped throwing (charter) bus trips out there for a reason, and it has a lot to do w/ how poor the casino industry is doin.... Internet Gambling has overtaken gambling in casino's, and I don't know of anyone that needs ACES to go on the internet !

 

It would be wise for ACES to pull out; and I have to side w/ ole dude that said they should have learned from the Gambler's Express (which I faintly remember hearing of).... Rail is designed to carry large amounts of ppl to a particular destination... When "large amounts of ppl" aren't traveling b/w Atlantic city & NYC (in any capacity, whether it be by bus, rail, personal vehicle) like that, why keep the service running...

 

Especially if that's the sole focus of that particular mode of transportation....

heck ridership would be higher if they went to cape may LOL via AC line stations and such
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They should have reactivated the Cape May Branch and made it the Cape May Express or CME.

 

So true would have made much more sense if they did that rather than waste money on service that duplicates faster modes. PPl would still be able to reach AC via a transfer at atco for the AC line thats how low ridership was on ACES. It should become the Cape may NEC express line limited stops then NE philly and the new transit center then lindenwood, atco and stations to cape may.

 

 

:tup:

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Until a faster way between NYC and AC is created, there no need for train service by (NJT).

 

What is needed however since traffic on the GSP can be brutal especially on summer holiday weekends is 'bus/HOV only' in each direction say between Route 9/Freehold(forgot interchange #) and at least Interstate 195.

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Until a faster way between NYC and AC is created, there no need for train service by (NJT).

 

What is needed however since traffic on the GSP can be brutal especially on summer holiday weekends is 'bus/HOV only' in each direction say between Route 9/Freehold(forgot interchange #) and at least Interstate 195.

 

yeah it's already being done as we speak on rte 9.

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Not to mention AC and to certain degree Vegas has in last couple of years trying to 're-invent' themselves to attract a younger crowd and more families as well. Thus they trying to become a location more than boxing B-list 'faded & has been 'stars' and adult(sex orineted shows)events.

 

I was out there Sat Night of July 4th weekend and the boardwalk casinos are packed.

 

Bro (B35) people still go to AC but as you said with onling gambling taking off, many who live within a day drive, will only visit AC or Vegas at most 1-2x a year.

 

There buses running between PABT/Metro NYC and AC 24/7 almost at any time of the day counting (NJT) 319, Greyhound and the casino buses both 'legal' and bootleg.

 

 

 

Affordable to who, is the question....

 

Atlantic city, as a major destination for NYC residents just isn't the case anymore... People stopped throwing (charter) bus trips out there for a reason, and it has a lot to do w/ how poor the casino industry is doin.... Internet Gambling has overtaken gambling in casino's, and I don't know of anyone that needs ACES to go on the internet !

 

It would be wise for ACES to pull out; and I have to side w/ ole dude that said they should have learned from the Gambler's Express (which I faintly remember hearing of).... Rail is designed to carry large amounts of ppl to a particular destination... When "large amounts of ppl" aren't traveling b/w Atlantic city & NYC (in any capacity, whether it be by bus, rail, personal vehicle) like that, why keep the service running...

 

Especially if that's the sole focus of that particular mode of transportation....

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