Solana Beach train depot may start charging for parking
Early discussions have taken place
As the North County Transit District tries to make up for a projected loss of more than $27 million, one idea being tossed around is to start charging Amtrak riders for parking at the Solana Beach station.
Those riding the Coaster may not have to pay the fee.
In an interview this week, NCTD Executive Director Matthew Tucker said he has had some very preliminary discussions about charging for parking, but that it is too early to report anything.
“There is nothing immediately pending that I can actually talk to you about now,” he said. “I think the parking issues ebb and flow all of the time and too many of the times you’re trying to deal with it when you’re having capacity issues.”
But with ridership down, Tucker said this is a good time to be at least having these conversations.
“I think it’s part of the items we need to discuss now when parking is not an issue that is front and center,” he said.
In 2008, the Solana Beach station had roughly 450,000 Amtrak passengers get on and off the trains there, making it the 25th busiest in America. It is estimated about 107,000 weekday Coaster riders went through the station in that same year.
Solana Beach Deputy Mayor Lesa Heebner said Tucker forewarned her about possible changes in the Solana Beach parking situation: “He’s already said, ‘Be prepared for some paid parking in Solana Beach,’ and I said, ‘We need to talk.’”
She noted that 70 percent of the riders at the Cedros Avenue station use Amtrak, which could create difficulty for local residents if travelers have to pay to park.
“Our transit station is nestled right in the midst of a neighborhood and there’s only so much parking,” Heebner said. “If the transit agency starts charging for parking, what would you do? Number one, you would drive or number two you’d just park in the neighborhood and walk.”
Heebner said if that were to happen, the city might have to begin issuing stickers and undertake administrative parking enforcement tasks.
Amtrak has three stops in San Diego County. No parking is available at the Santa Fe station downtown, so riders must use alternative pay lots and parking is free in Oceanside and Solana Beach.
Heebner said Amtrak riders could possibly go to a nearby alternative Coaster station where a parking fee is not charged, take the train to Solana Beach and change trains for the rest of the way.
“People are not going to be walking or biking with their suitcases on their back to the Amtrak station,” she said.
NCTD spokesperson Sarah Benson said while the district would get some federal stimulus funds for projects and upgrades, it would not go to operational costs.
NCTD’s Tucker said a majority of the funds would probably go to high-speed rail and not benefit NCTD. The district is losing $10.5 million annually due to the elimination of the State Transit Assistance Program.
Additionally, NCTD relies much on sales-tax revenue. Benson said in a good economy that would equate to $52 million yearly. The projection now is roughly $35 million.
In December, Coaster instituted a “quick park” option for its two lots in Carlsbad and one in Encinitas where people can prepay for priority spots. So far that program has yielded little return.
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