The "Amtrak" Pacific Surfliner train in California
There are a number of state programs that work with Amtrak to provide enhanced railroad transportation services, by providing additional financing and management and marketing support. The leaders are California, the States of Washington and Oregon working together on the Amtrak Cascades program, plus the service from Boston to Maine, run by an authority created by the State of Maine.
Flickr photo of the interior of a Pacific Surfliner Amtrak California train by Chris.
I rode the Pacific Surfliner the other day, between Orange County and San Diego. The PS service originates in Los Angeles, and different services travel between LA and San Francisco and from Sacramento to San Jose.
Some of these regions have separate and complementary regional commuter railroad services, including Metrolink in Greater LA, the Coaster service in San Diego County, and Caltrain in the San Francisco Bay region.
While the cars on the Pacific Surfliner are set up more for "commuting" than for long distance travel and therefore are the double deck cars typical of commuter railroad services, I have to say that they were newer and way more comfortable than the Amfleet cars on the Northeast corridor service. The wi-fi worked pretty well and so did the electricity outlet at the seat--you can't say the same for service on the Northeast corridor.
(Interestingly, I just read a travel article which talked about the value of travel for the ability to experience places rather than merely read about them. The author has gone with his family a number of times to Europe and he wrote about how that has made his 12-year-old daughter a strong advocate for building high speed rail service in the US.)
I haven't ridden the Acela, maybe it's comparable, but the California-supported railroad services demonstrate that it is possible to have comfortable train service that is modern and updated.
Interestingly, this kind of state support is not dissimilar from how states like New York and Pennsylvania provided "subsidies" to for profit railroad passenger companies starting in the 1930s, so that the companies could buy new railcars and maintain passenger service, which they claimed was unprofitable otherwise.
In any case, it demonstrates that investing more money in railroad passenger service makes it more comfortable and competitive with other modes.