07.16.13

SCHUMER ANNOUNCES BIKE ON BOARD DEMO TO TAKE PLACE ON AMTRAKS ETHAN ALLEN LINE LATER THIS MONTH AFTER SENATORS PUSH, AMTRAK TESTING POLICY THAT WILL HELP BRING MORE VISITORS, BIKES, TOURISM DOLLARS TO CAPITAL REGION AND NORTH COUNTRY

brbrSchumer Announced Amtrak to Test Special, Retrofitted Caf� Cars That Carry Bikes on Trains to Albany, Saratoga Beyond Currently, Bikes are Not Allowed Anywhere on the Ethan Allen LinebrbrbrbrDemo Will Connect Downstate Riders to Hudson Valley, Upstate Bike Trails and Scenic Tourist Locations, Albany, Saratoga, and Vermont; Schumer State Sens. Little, Hoylman Pushed for Testing of Bicycle-Carrying Cars and a Change in Policy Last MonthbrbrbrbrSchumer: Demo is the First Step in Expanding B

Today, U.S. Senator Charles Schumer announced that, after his request to expand bicycle service on its regional rail lines, Amtrak will test a 'Bring Your Bike on Board' demo program on Amtrak's  Ethan Allen Line in midtolate July. Last month, Schumer joined State Senators Betty Little and Brad Hoylman and pushed Amtrak to make modifications for carryon bike service or include speciallyfitted café cars on their  Adirondack and  Ethan Allen line in order to better connect downstate riders with biking trails in the Capital region and North Country. Schumer explained that the demo will occur on a limited basis at first, but is a significant first step as it will allow Amtrak to gauge demand and gather feedback for testing on other regional lines and for a potential longterm service. Schumer noted that a series of successful demos could lead to expanding this service to other New York regional Amtrak lines where such a program could ferry more visitors and tourism dollars to the Hudson Valley, Albany, Saratoga, and other North Country destinations.

Later this month, Amtrak will test specially fitted café cars capable of carrying bicycles, their riders, and visitors to a variety of upstate scenic tourist destinations that are replete with bike trails and picturesque stretches of road. Currently, Amtrak has this "Bring Your Bicycle On Board" program on its BostonPortland line, New YorkCharlotte line, and in California, where the program is so popular that Amtrak had to begin requiring reservations. Schumer praised Amtrak's decision, pointing out that a longterm program could boost upstate tourism and economic growth by enticing more downstate Amtrak riders to various locations in the Capital Region and North Country.

"Bike riders across the state are gearing up to visit the miles of scenic bike trails along Lake Placid, Lake Champlain and throughout the Adirondacks and North Country, and I applaud Amtrak for testing bicyclecarrying cars which will help take them there," said Schumer.  "I believe the new  Ethan Allen demo will prove successful, will show Amtrak just how much demand there is for this service and convince them that bicycle service should be on regional rail lines throughout the state. I encourage them to work with the State to test this service on other regional rail lines like the AdirondackEmpire, and  Maple Leaf. It will be a huge boon for recreation and tourism in the Adirondacks, attract more passengers to the Amtrak regional lines, encourage more competitive cyclists and triathletes to attend local events, and pump more tourism dollars into New York's economy."

Schumer continued, "I also want to applaud State Senators Betty Little and Brad Hoylman in this effort to bring bikes on board Capital Region rail lines. Their great work has brought us a step closer to creating this program."

The demo will test specially retrofitted café cars, which are already being tested in Michigan, that can carry bicycles and their riders on the  Ethan Allen line. This demo will occur on a limited basis at first, and Amtrak plans to solicit feedback from the riders to gauge demand and test the overall experience. Amtrak hopes to set up similar demos on other regional lines. The NYS Dept. of Transportation, which has shown great interest in this program, is working with Amtrak on the demo. In collaboration with Amtrak, the NYS DOT would have to sign off on further testing and would have to approve a longterm program.

Representatives from the local Chambers of Commerce strongly supported the change in Amtrak policy because they've seen the growth and importance of recreation and tourism in the Capital Region on a more general level, but also specifically in bicycle tourism over the past several years. There are thousands of miles of trails and scenic roads, and bicycling was one of the top 10 activities drawing visitors to the Adirondack Coast region, and large events like the Lake Placid Ironman and the Tour of the Battenkill draw hundreds of cyclists and triathletes to the region each year. In fact, 69% of lodging facilities had guests that brought a bicycle along with them or were travelling by bicycle. Schumer noted that allowing bikes on Amtrak cars will offer downstate travelers, especially those from NYC and Long Island who do not frequently travel by car, an option to commute to these locations and events by the regional lines. This move by Amtrak will bolster an already positive trend.

In addition, Schumer highlighted that Amtrak's decision to add special bike cars to these rail lines could have an enormous economic impact. 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 CapitalSaratoga region had a combined economic impact of nearly $7 billion, which was a 5% increase from 2010. Tourism in these four regions supports over 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 is pleased to announce the new pilot, and will be tracking the response closely as he believes the pilot will prove demand exists for this service on other Amtrak regional lines like the  Adirondack and the  Maple  Leaf line. Schumer applauded Amtrak for their help in supporting the growing popularity of bicycle tourism, which is already a huge driver of economic growth in the Capital Region and North Country.

Last month, and the Albany/Rensselaer Train Station, Sen. Schumer and State Sen. Betty Little asked Amtrak to begin including additional cars on the  Adirondack and  Ethan Allen lines to accommodate bicycle tourists. Amtrak's "Bring Your Bicycle On Board" program has several features, including a walkon service in select locations, but essentially offers passengers the option to store their bike in any of their train's baggage cars. Currently, the Amtrak  Ethan Allen line does not have cars that permit bicycle storage. Schumer underlined that this service already exists on the BostonPortland and New YorkCharlotte line.

In California, Amtrak offers "walkon" service to select destinations, where passengers can secure their bikes on normal passenger cars rather than storing them in baggage. This service has become so popular, that Amtrak had to begin requiring reservations. Schumer noted that given the popularity of Capital Region and North Country destinations for cyclists, "walkon" service could be something Amtrak looks at in the future. Schumer expects the pilot will be an extremely popular feature and provide a boost to Amtrak's business as well.

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