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AMTRAK ACELA : service

(w/ IDEO, 1996-9)

Problem: In 1996, Amtrak, the national passenger train operator of the USA, secured to invest $3BIL in new high-speed train equipment track improvements, track electrification and station refurbishment along its Northeast Corridor, which connects Boston and Washington DC with New York. 


First, a design-focused management strategy was needed that would galvanize Amtrak’s senior leadership team around a vision for a new service. Second, that vision needed to be communicated and implemented through all managers and suppliers, enabling the entire organization to transition from being operations driven to being service led. 

Solution: Working closely with senior Amtrak managers, the design team co-created a tangible vision for the new service, laying the groundwork for specific service elements to be developed within “The Seamless Journey” framework. From here, the design team embarked on a series of design initiatives with the various equipment suppliers to the program in order to execute and implement the coherent service vision for what was to become Acela.


Impact: Ridership increased twofold within six months of Acela service introduction. Amtrak was able to offer an integrated passenger service through an organization clear in its objectives and capable with its tools. Acela is now contributing to the generation of an estimated $300 million in annual profit in the Northeast Corridor – the largest amount in Amtrak history.

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