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Out to Lunch

January 05, 1986

Lunch is an honored institution in Washington, where one is particularly admired if he can walk from his office to a popular eatery like Mel Krupin's, welcomed by name and ushered to a choice table.

So, pity the top officials of the Environmental Protection Agency whose headquarters are tucked away in southwest Washington a mile or so south of the Capitol and well away from the good lunch spots downtown. They solved the problem by checking out official EPA autos and touring their way to lunch. The EPA inspector general has reported that of 3,400 official auto trips made during April-August, 1984, 1,122 were to go to lunch--at an average cost of $45 a trip.

That's all right, under EPA rules, if the official is lunching with a counterpart from another agency, someone from Congress or a trade association. But the EPA officials rejected a suggestion that they take a much more economic and logical means of transport, the taxicab. You can go almost anywhere in Washington for less than $3. Cabs are plentiful, and the drivers efficient and generally courteous. They even get away with making U-turns in the middle of a block. No one would drive in Washington if he could take a cab or the subway (EPA has no handy Metro stop).

It seems that the EPA officials rejected the cab idea because 13 of the official autos have telephones in them, and this allowed the lunch bunch to "conduct business en route and in traffic." Probably had to phone ahead for a reservation.

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