DAN HEATH Press-Republican
PLATTSBURGH — U.S. Sen. Charles Schumer and State Sen. Betty Little have called on Amtrak to add baggage cars for bicycles to its Adirondack line.
Schumer noted that people already come from all over New York and the East Coast to visit the miles of scenic bike trails throughout the Adirondacks and North Country.
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This simple change in Amtrak policy could boost upstate tourism and economic growth by enticing more Canadian and downstate riders to visit the Capital Region and North Country, he said.
“This move would turn the gears towards increased recreation and tourism in the Adirondacks, attract more passengers to the Amtrak regional lines, encourage more competitive cyclists and triathletes to local events in the Capital Region and pump more tourism dollars into New York’s economy,” Schumer said in a press release.
As an added bonus, Amtrak is building new baggage cars at the CAF-USA railcar plant in Elmira that could accommodate bicycles, he said.
Little, chair of the Senate Cultural Affairs, Tourism, Parks and Recreation Committee, said she thinks an Amtrak train with a dedicated car for bikes would appeal to a lot of people.
“Imagine jumping on a train on a Friday afternoon, stepping off a few hours later with a backpack and bike and cycling down the road to a bed-and-breakfast for a weekend escape,” she said.
“We have so many wonderful communities along the Amtrak route for city residents and tourists to explore. If we make it easy, they will come.”
Currently, Amtrak has the Bring Your Bicycle On Board program on its Boston-to-Portland, Maine line, New York-to-Charlotte, N.C., line and in California, where the program is so popular that Amtrak had to begin requiring reservations.
Schumer said local studies have shown that bicycle tourists spend, on average, between $100 and $300 per day and stay multiple nights when they visit the Capital Region.
In 2011, tourism in the Adirondacks, Catskills, Hudson Valley and Capital-Saratoga region had a combined economic impact of nearly $7 billion, he said, a 5 percent increase from 2010.
Tourism in these four regions supports more than 120,000 jobs and contributes nearly $850 million in state and local tax revenue.
Increased visitors and bikers would be a boost for lodging, restaurants, shops and tourist attractions, Schumer said.
North Country Chamber of Commerce President Garry Douglas said the baggage cars would allow visitors to come to the Adirondacks by train with their bicycles as well as conveyances like kayaks.
“This is popular elsewhere in the country and certainly in Europe and would open up a new customer base for Amtrak as well,” Douglas said by email.
“We thank Senator Schumer for his advocacy, as well as Senator Little, who is a big proponent.”
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