Tuesday, December 16, 2008


If you turn to page 57 of my book, you'll find a gray box with the headline of "New Rail Line?" The text under says: "As of press time, a new rail line is being planned that will be a direct train from New York City to Atlantic City--no stops."

Finally, that rail line is here. Well, at least we have a date for when it will be here.

ACES, an upscale train running from New York to Atlantic City (with one stop in Newark but none in Philadelphia), will run its first train on February 6. The price? It starts at $50 each way. That gives you an idea of the target audience -- the folks who will not only go for $500+ a night rooms but will also pay full prices to do so as opposed to players who expect free room and board in exchange for all the money they pump into slots.

Case in point: ACES will have a "lounge" on the train -- and by "lounge" I mean bar. They want this to be the start of the party for New Yorkers coming into town. Plus, the line runs weekends only (they're using rail lines already in place and couldn't squeeze another train in on commuter heavy weekdays).

I thought it was a neat idea a few years ago because the only way to get to AC from New York before was car, limo, bus or plane (don't think people didn't do it). But given that the Borgata has just laid off 400 people, new construction projects are being shelved, and casinos along the strip are hurting, will enough people pay for this kind of service? A bus ticket could cost less than half of what ACES charges and includes a slots credit.

This concept was planned on a boom economy when everyone in Atlantic City was spending gobs of money to upgrade their properties, and new casino and condo projects were on the books (Pinnacle, MGM Grand and more). But those days are over, and who knows when it'll turn around?

So I'm not sure how it'll do. ACES has been in the works for so long that it would be stupid not to go ahead with it, and even though I have doubts about how successful it'll be, I'm glad to see this train I've heard so much about is finally going to start chugging along.

Now, if you notice, this train does not stop in Philadelphia. Why? A few reasons as far as I can tell -- unlike New Yorkers, more people here have cars. Plus, there's already a train that runs out of Philadelphia to Atlantic City. It's not exactly a swinging party ride, but it's still a train with a much more regular schedule than ACES will have.

I could go on about how I think Atlantic City PR and ad pushes (usually put together by NYC-based agencies) focus too heavily on NYC vs. Philadelphia, but I had my say already when I was quoted this summer in the New York Observer :

“The Chelsea can’t survive on a New York crowd alone,” said Jen Miller, author of the guidebook The Jersey Shore: Atlantic City to Cape May, who had stayed at the Chelsea earlier in the week and came back to witness the revelry on Saturday. “Yes, you’ll get a lot of New York people in Atlantic City, but Philadelphia and southern New Jersey is Atlantic City’s bread and butter, especially in the off-season. I think putting a Stephen Starr restaurant in there plays to our restaurant sensibilities—he’s much more a Philly guy than New York. I would recommend that they stop putting the New York Post in front of rooms in the morning—it should be the Press of Atlantic City or the [Philadelphia] Inquirer.

“Even if you’re from New York,” she added, “you’re still at the Jersey Shore.”

ACES' PR campaign is being run by Tierney Communications, which is based in Philadelphia. Should be interesting to see how they play this one out.

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iconjohn said...

I can get from Center City Philly to AC in about an hour 10 minutes by car. I looked at the train that runs from Philly to AC and over 2 hours with all the stops. Maybe there is a market for a non stop ride from NYC. We'll see.

Anonymous said...

Amtrak wouldn't allow the train to stop in Philly because it would undercut the disgustingly high prices they charge for NY-Phil service ($80/one way).

I agree with your post. I think the train would be more successful if they just packed people in like a normal NJ transit train and charges $15/person.

Anonymous said...

I'm guessing that the train is going to run on the Jersey Coast line, right? Or maybe the light rail line through Burlington County? Sounds like a great idea all around, even without the stop in Philly. Maybe that FLX conference in Atlantic City isn't such a bad idea after all?!

Jen A. Miller said...

Leah, from what I understand, it'll pass Philly because it's using tracks already in place. I'll let you know more when I know more!