NATIONAL Airport may be too crowded and noisy to be so...

Salmagundi

July 22, 1992

NATIONAL Airport may be too crowded and noisy to be so close to downtown Washington D.C. But it has one feature that endears it to Congress: Members relish their VIP treatment -- Very Important Parking spaces, conveniently located so that they can whip into the lot and catch their planes with a minimum of wasted time. Since the reserved lot is free, they also save the parking fees of $8 a day and up. Supreme Court justices and diplomats enjoy the same privileges.

For years, weary travelers have trudged past that special lot, which is often only sparsely filled, casting envious eyes on the public officials who have exempted themselves from the normal hassles of air travel. But in this election year, even Capitol Hill has gotten the message that voters are fed up with perks for public officials.

Now come reports of a growing sentiment in Congress to end parking privileges at National and Dulles airports. Rep. Norman Mineta (D-Calif.), who chairs a congressional committee that oversees the two airports, raised the topic in a response to House Speaker Tom Foley's request for perks to cut. "Officials should use the same parking facilities available to any other citizen," Rep. Mineta wrote.

This is one privilege that Congress will not give up easily. But if members do summon the courage to debate the issue, here's our suggestion: Why not exchange their reserved parking lot for a more appropriate perk -- reserved seats on the Washington Metro, another convenient way to reach National Airport.

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