The 208 residents of Takoma Tower Retirement Home in Takoma Park who rely on Montgomery County's Ride-On bus system have launched a fight to change the site of the Langley Park bus depot.
The bus riders say the depot of Lebanon Street is unsuitable because there is no shelter during inclement weather, there is insufficient lighting at night and it leaves them too far from shopping areas.
Unitl last year, according to senior activist Elsie McNamara, the bus depot was in the Hampshire Langley Shopping Center, an outdoor mall with 22 stores. The depot was well lit and under shelter, McNamara said.
But the owner of a store where the buses stopped for about seven minutes at the end of their route complained to the county that the buses aggravated traffic and air pollution problems.
The county's chief transportation planner, David Bone, said he agreed to shift the depot to the other side of University Boulevard.
McNamara said the current site, which is behind a Grand Union supermarket and next to a small shopping center with a few specialty shops, is unsafe.
"It's in a very dark, dingy alley," she said, and bus riders often are harrassed by loitering youths.
To reach the larger shopping center, riders must cross University Boulevard, which is no easy task for the elderly, McNamara said.
"Even crossing with the light can be dangerous for us," she said, explaining that many of the seniors cannot cross the four-lane thoroughfare within one light cycle.
In December the elderly citizens began a drive to have the depot relocated.
At a recent meeting with the organizers. Bone said all the Hampshire Langley merchants have agreed to support the relocation. He said the county expects to reach an agreement with the B.F. Saul Co., owners of the shopping mall, who must pay for minor modifications to the parking lot to accomdate the buses. He added that the site could be switched about four weeks after the mall owners agree to the modifications. A representative of B.F. Saul Co. could not be reached for comment.
The proposed new depot site is in front of S.H. Kress Co.
About 1,600 riders get on or off the Ride-On bus at the Langley Park site daily. The bus line originates at the Silver Spring Metro station and ends in Langley Park.