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Acela Supercommuters Dish About Their Points and Perks

We talked to some of the train's most dedicated patrons.
Brazile is an avid Amtrak rider.

To read more from the DC insider’s guide to the Acela, click here.

Donna Brazile

Political strategist and former DNC chair

Photograph via Getty Images.

How many Amtrak points do you have?

I redeem them often—a little under 50,000.

How many trips do you make a year?

On average, five to seven a month.

What’s your best insider tip?

Bring your own food onboard. Nobody checks to see if you’re bringing a bottle of water or wine.

If you have to get food, what do you get?

Well, of course I’ll say red wine. They actually do have a good selection of wine. And you know, I love a hot dog on a train. There’s nothing like a hot dog and a cold beer on the Amtrak.

What’s the most Washington moment you’ve ever experienced?

Justice [Anthony] Kennedy and his wife and I were all coming back to town once. He stopped on his way to the bathroom when he saw me, and he said, “Have you seen Hamilton?!” I said, “No, what’s Hamilton?” It had just started at that point. He then sat down and started telling me about how exciting it was, and all about the music. I sat there like, Oh, my God! Only on the Acela!

James Brown

CBS sportscaster

Photograph via Getty Images.

How many Amtrak points do you have?

I’m sure it’s in the hundreds of thousands. I save those for off-season trips with family—my grandson, four years old, is a major train lover.

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First class or business?

I’m blessed to ride first class.

How many trips do you make a year?

Heavens. About 60.

Do you have a favorite seat?

I like to get the single seat with a table toward the back. That way, I can be incognito. I do my morning devotional reading first, then research on that weekend’s game.

Tell me about one of your more memorable trips.

All of first class was booked with so many folks who were down for President Trump’s inauguration. There were women coming over to talk to me, asking me questions, and it turns out they were very close to Woody Johnson, the owner of the New York Jets. The insight they offered into the personality makeup of the players spoke volumes about what we could expect them to do on the field. I ended up using some of it on the broadcast that Sunday.

Chris Coons

US senator from Delaware

Photograph via Getty Images.

How many Amtrak points do you have?

My guess that is that I’ve traveled over 200,000 miles. The Senate only pays for one round trip a week, so those points come in handy.

First class or business?

I don’t think I’ve ever ridden first class.

How many trips do you make a year?

It’s about 200 miles a day. I do it four times a week. I’ve been doing it for seven years. I didn’t get home last night until 10:30, but I still got half an hour with my kids.

Do you have a favorite seat?

I almost always sit in the cafe. I like to spread out and use the table and power through the 100 pages of paper my staff gives me. I put in my headphones, then play the Harlem Gospel channel on Pandora. I find it calming.

What’s the most Washington moment you’ve ever experienced?

On this train I’m on right now, Joe Biden walked past, said hi. Chuck Schumer walked past, said hi. And I haven’t even left the car I’m sitting in.

Andrea Mitchell

NBC News chief foreign-affairs correspondent

Photograph via Getty Images.

How many Amtrak points do you have?

Oh, my God—I checked recently. They said I had almost 400,000 miles. It’s insane. But I’ve never taken a break and thought about anything fun to do with them.

What’s your best insider tip?

The great secret about the Acela is the redcaps. They know the regulars, and you can call them on their cells. They’ll meet you at the curb if you have a lot of bags, and they’ll get you to your train quickly.

Which trips do you remember most?

I was going to Philly once, and there was a breaking story involving the Clintons. I had to try to confirm it, but I was in the quiet car, so I had to call sources while rocking between the two cars.

What’s the most Washington moment you’ve ever experienced?

Those happen every time. You al-ways see someone you know—Madeleine Albright, Donna Brazile, Vernon Jordan.

This article appeared in the March 2018 issue of Washingtonian.

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Staff Writer

Elaina Plott joined Washingtonian in June 2016 as a staff writer. She has written about her past life as an Ann Coulter fangirl, how the Obamas changed Washington, and the rise and fall of Roll Call. She previously covered Congress for National Review. Her writing has appeared in the New York Observer, GQ, and Harper’s Bazaar.

Staff Writer

Benjamin Freed joined Washingtonian in August 2013 and covers politics, business, and media. He was previously the editor of DCist and has also written for Washington City Paper, the New York Times, the New Republic, Slate, and BuzzFeed. He lives in Adams Morgan.