Wheaton Plaza can chase the buses all the way back to their maintenance yards, but it will remain no more than a sleazy, ill-maintained, second-class excuse for a shopping center, perpetually eclipsed by such mighty retail meccas as Montgomery, White Flint and Lakeforest malls {Metro, Aug. 20}. Its ugly corrugated steel ceilings and bird-infested, nonfunctional signage belie any realistic hope of ever competing with their shimmering fountains, lofty skylights and stunning architecture.

If the management there wishes to hasten its inexorable decline by turning away public buses -- and purge its hollow halls of the unsightly elderly and minority patrons who frequently rely on them -- then may it rot in its own potholed parking lot and dream of those days long gone when it was an establishment of some consequence.

Meanwhile, we spurned passengers will be amply served at these other malls where we will still find enthusiastic welcome.

As for Metro, I suggest that it bar Wheaton Plaza shuttles from access to the Glenmont Metro station upon its long-awaited completion. DAVID J. O'CONNELL Bethesda While the decision to kick the bus riders out of the Wheaton Plaza parking lot may have been made by the owners of the mall and not by the operators of the stores, the merchants should clarify their position in this debacle. There have been insinuations that bus riders "dirty up the stores" and use the bathrooms. This would leave one with the impression that individuals arriving by automobile neither use the bathrooms nor cause dirt or litter. But there have also been suggestions that this action was taken in retaliation for construction delays imposed by county building inspectors.

Throughout this unseemly mess, Woodward and Lothrop, Montgomery Ward and the other stores have been ominously and conspicuously silent. Before I patronize any of them again, I d like to hear their version -- in public and on the record.

This entire affair is getting rather mean and vicious. Some stores do go to great lengths and expense to create an image of exclusivity, but this is ridiculous. As a resident of the area for some 25 years, I just can t believe that after all the generous community service and genuine concern for our citizens, Woodward and Lothrop, Montgomery Ward and the others are no longer concerned that the elderly -- many of them longtime customers -- will have to walk a long way in the rain and snow.

How about it, civic-minded retailers -- is Wheaton Plaza and its stores too exclusive for people who ride the bus? JEAN MOYER Wheaton