Montgomery County Executive Sidney Kramer, angered by the recent move banning buses from Wheaton Plaza, met yesterday with plaza officials and will hold a news conference today to report on his efforts to change the decision by the shopping mall.
Kramer's scheduling of the news conference prompted speculation by some that the mall would reverse its decision. "It looks like we will be back in the bus business at Wheaton Plaza," said Mary Bucklew, a spokeswoman for Metro. Metro officials, however, were not present at yesterday's session and said they had no information on its outcome.
Kramer and County Transportation Director Robert S. McGarry met with representatives of Resource Realty Inc., the company that manages the shopping complex and that told Metro and Ride-On officials this month that buses could no longer drive onto or stop on Wheaton Plaza property.
The ban went into effect Aug. 15, prompting an uproar from local officials and citizens who said the ban caused a hardship to senior citizens who frequent the mall and was an ill-disguised attempt to discourage low-income people from shopping there. The Gray Panthers senior citizens group said it has collected more than 1,000 signatures in protest.
"It was a good meeting," McGarry said of yesterday's session but he declined to reveal any details.
Since the ban went into effect, riders have had to walk several hundred yards from bus stops on Veirs Mill Road or Reedie Drive to the mall. Buses had been allowed to stop directly outside the Woodward & Lothrop store.
About 5,000 riders a day arrive and depart from Wheaton Plaza, where the Hot Shoppes serves as a lunchtime meeting place for many senior citizens, the Maryland state employment office serves the jobless and a Social Security Administration office is located.
Officials of the management firm could not be reached for comment yesterday and have not been available to explain their decision to ban the buses. The company told Metro that its buses caused too much wear and tear on the road, according to a Metro spokeswoman, and county officials said they were told Ride-On buses interfered with construction.