IN MONTGOMERY COUNTY--where "back to the drawing board" is not a saying but a way of life--some of the best-laid plans get pulled back, revised and extended, shredded or reglued in preparing to meet the Metro trains of the future with the buses necessary for any coordinated transit system to do its best. With the subway stations in place, where should the buses connect? A controversial case in point, and slated for consideration by the county council today, takes us to greater metropolitan downtown Wheaton, where someday buses will terminate at or near--and therein lies the debate-- the subway station.

Metro and the county's planning board have one idea of where the bus bays should be; County Executive Charles W. Gilchrist has another--and in between, until it decides, is the council. And depending on how close anyone lives to the subway station, somewhere in this mix are the views of residents and members of the business community. Now, if you were connecting from bus to subway or vice versa every day, where would you want the bus bays --right next to the subway entrance on currently vacant land, or across Georgia Avenue in the middle of a built-up block?

Most riders would say bring the buses to trainside, and so would we. The exceptions, of course, are the immediate neighbors, who want to keep those bus bays at bay, across the avenue. They have Mr. Gilchrist on their side, contending that noise and air pollution and vibration and other intrusive side effects argue for placing the bus terminal on the other side of the avenue.

But there is the slight matter of the, ah, check for this modification: the lowest estimate is that it would cost $1 million more to put the bus bays across the avenue. That, in times of financial strain, is no loose change. And in terms of design and commercial good sense--which deserve serious consideration at Metro subway station sites--the immediately adjacent has advantages. There could be residential as well as commercial development over the bus facility, similar to development under way in Bethesda. And designs with setbacks, barrier walls and landscaping could reduce noise or vibration problems.

Certainly in any of these decisions somebody is bound to be unhappy, and the immediate neighbors have a right to be concerned. But good sense and sound money judgments point to the adjacent site as the one the council should support.