Travel briefs: A push for bike trains, free rental car mistake and other travel news


Bike trains

RENSSELAER, N.Y. - New York lawmakers want Amtrak to add baggage cars capable of carrying bicycles to its passenger trains.

U.S. Sen. Charles Schumer and state Sens. Betty Little of Warren County and Brad Hoylman of Manhattan said such a move would get more visitors and tourism dollars into New York state.

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The lawmakers are asking Amtrak to add baggage cars that could carry bicycles on the Adirondack and Ethan Allen trains, which run from Penn Station in Manhattan to the Albany area, Saratoga and destinations in New York's North Country and Vermont.

Amtrak said bikes can now be checked in as baggage for $10 each at some larger stations on the Adirondack and Ethan Allen routes, including Penn Station, Rensselaer and Schenectady, and it's generally looking at ways to accommodate more cyclists.

It said it's working on retrofitting some trains with more racks and building new baggage cars with built-in racks.

No free rental car

DALLAS - Thrifty Car Rental says it's sorry, but many customers who were offered a free one-day rental won't be getting that after all.

The company says the offer was intended for a select group of top customers but was sent accidentally to many other people.

"We're very sorry for any confusion our eagerness may have caused," the chain, which is owned by Hertz Global Holdings Inc., told customers by email.

Hertz spokeswoman Paula Rivera said the offer sent out Friday night was meant for "select" members of Thrifty's frequent-renter program, called Blue Chip. They were offered a free day after 16 days of paid rentals.

By mistake the offer went to other customers who had merely signed up to receive emails from the company, Rivera said.

Frequent-flier changes

CHICAGO - United Airlines is making it a little harder to get a higher frequent-flier status.

That status used to require flying 25,000 miles per year. Now, United is adding a requirement for at least $2,500 in spending, too, to qualify for status in its MileagePlus program.

Most frequent fliers would spend that much anyway if they are earning 25,000 miles. But those who buy discounted tickets might be affected.

Travelers like to get so-called "elite" status because of seat upgrades and other perks.

The change takes effect next year for travelers trying to earn status in 2015. Taxes and bag fees won't count toward the spending total.

Vegas arena

LAS VEGAS - Casino giant MGM Resorts International and entertainment company AEG say they've inked a deal to build a 20,000-seat Las Vegas Strip arena.

Officials with Las Vegas-based MGM Resorts and Los Angeles-based AEG say the joint venture will provide a centerpiece for a renovation of the area from Las Vegas Boulevard to Frank Sinatra Drive between the New York-New York and Monte Carlo resorts.

Groundbreaking for the $350 million arena is expected next summer, with completion by spring 2016.

NH ATV trails

STEWARTSTOWN, N.H. - All-terrain vehicle riders planning long-distance trips in northern New Hampshire no longer have to haul their machines between breaks in the trail thanks to a new 1,000-mile interconnected trail system.

Dubbed "Ride the Wilds," the network of trails for all-terrain vehicles winds throughout Coos County. More than a dozen off-road vehicle clubs worked with state agencies and local communities for years on the $86,000 project. Supporters hope the network will attract riders from across the Northeast, giving the area's restaurants, motels, and other businesses a much-needed economic boost.

The new trail system comes several years after the opening of Jericho Mountain State Park in Berlin, the state's newest and the only one in New England developed for ATVs and snowmobiles. Building on that success, the state Legislature this year passed a pair of bills aimed at attracting more off-road vehicle enthusiasts to the state: One would allow the construction of a separate obstacle course for modified trucks and jeeps at the park, and the other would allow larger, two-passenger motorized vehicles on state-owned trails.

Electric car corridor

MONTPELIER, Vt. - Starting this fall, people who drive electric vehicles should be able to travel the 138-mile route between Burlington and Montreal without worrying they'll run short of a charge thanks to a planned electric vehicle charging corridor, Vermont Gov. Peter Shumlin and Quebec Premier Pauline Marois announced in Montreal.

Initially the corridor will have more than 20 charging stations along the route, although it's expected the number of stations will increase.

"Alternative fuel vehicles lower our reliance on gasoline, helping both our environment and our energy independence," Shumlin said Monday in Montreal at an event with Marois. "With the number of alternative energy vehicles growing at tremendous rates, these stations, along with websites identifying their location, will support visitors and residents as they use this clean and efficient mode of transportation."

NYC Ferris wheel

NEW YORK - A New York City community board has given its blessing to what's billed as the world's largest Ferris wheel.

The approval Tuesday has some strings attached.

The Staten Island Advance says it requires 100 percent of the city's revenue from the lease to be used for improvements in that borough.

The proposed New York Wheel would have a view of the Statue of Liberty, New York Harbor and the Manhattan skyline.

The $500 million project also includes an outlet mall and hotel.

Developers also need approval from the borough president, the City Planning Commission, the City Council and the mayor.

Mayor Michael Bloomberg has already promoted the project.

Chicago tourism

CHICAGO - Chicago officials say 46.2 million tourists visited the city last year, a near-record.

In a statement Tuesday, Mayor Rahm Emanuel says the strong numbers show that the city's marketing efforts are paying off.

In 2012, 45 million U.S. visitors came to Chicago, up 6.2 percent from the year before. Meanwhile, international tourism climbed to 1.2 million people, up 3.2 percent from 2011.

The latest figures were just shy of the tourism record set in 2007.

Emanuel's set a goal of having 50 million visitors a year by 2020.

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