SAN JUAN CAPISTRANO : Parking Fee for Train Commuters Approved

In an effort to control parking downtown, the City Council has decided to charge 25 cents an hour for train commuters who use 131 parking spaces reserved for them near the depot.

The city will charge the hourly rate from 6 a.m. to 6 p.m., with a $2-a-day maximum for rail commuters who pay daily. Annual passes also will be sold at a discount price. The new fees will become effective July 6.

Under a program approved Tuesday night, San Juan Capistrano residents will be able to buy an annual parking pass for $125, while non-residents will be charged $400.

The price difference is an attempt to reduce the number of rail commuters from San Clemente who catch northbound trains in San Juan Capistrano.

Recent city surveys show that dozens of San Clemente residents have been coming to San Juan Capistrano during weekdays to take the train to work rather than leave from the San Clemente station because the train fare is lower and they have to pay $30 a month in parking fees in San Clemente.

San Juan Capistrano leases the parking spaces from the Franciscan Plaza.

Downtown merchants have complained that the city has become such a popular train departure point that commuters also use other daylong parking spots meant for customers.

But at least one business said he welcomes out-of-town rail commuters.

Jim Miller, part-owner of the Amsterdam Coffee House, urged the council to keep prices reasonable for the parking spaces.

"All those commuters who come in early every day are potential customers," Miller said.

Councilman Gil Jones said downtown parking has been problem for several years.

"We keep talking about commuters, but we have other people to think of too," Jones said. He added that the future may hold more metered spaces downtown.

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