Finally, a fast track to Atlantic City

Atlantic City's transformation from seedy to sophisticated began a few years ago, but transportation from New York City remained a deterrent — until now. The Atlantic City Express Service train from Penn Station launches today and offers direct service Fridays through Sundays.

Introductory fares start at $50 for a one-way coach seat and $75 for a one-way first-class seat. There's also a VIP lounge for four passengers available for $400. The trip takes 2 hours, 40 minutes, with one stop in Newark.

Previously, those wanting to head to A.C. from NYC had a choice of driving (and risking Garden State Parkway traffic), hiring a limo or taking a not-so-glamorous bus.

"We've been hearing from customers and potential customers, 'If you can fix the transportation issue, we'd love to come down,' " says Jay Snowden, senior vice president of Harrah's Entertainment.

The brand-new, double-decker, 300-seat trains feature first-class seating with personal service upstairs, coach seats on both levels and soft lighting throughout.

The private lounge boasts four plasma televisions, a computer and a MP3 player cable. A snack bar with sandwiches ($7-$7.50), salads ($7), munchies ($2-$3.80) and alcoholic and non-alcoholic beverages is available in each car. High rollers can splurge on Remy Martin VSOP for $16.

The leather seats recline and include foot rests. But there are no overhead storage racks on the bottom floor and no individual reading lights on either level. Even the overhead storage racks on the top level don't offer much room — a small overnight bag has to be squished to fit. Power outlets are spaced throughout each car but not at every seat.

The trains are owned by the Borgata Hotel Casino & Spa, Harrah's and Caesars Atlantic City Casino & Hotel and operated by New Jersey Transit. Free shuttles between the Atlantic City Rail Terminal and the three properties are available.

Info and tickets: acestrain.com, amtrak.com.

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