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Bus Depot Faces Unprecedented Peril

[October 8th 2012] Hidden within a ring of colossal trees, the Shady Grove bus depot, built to store buses for Montgomery County Public Schools, now confronts a pressing situation. Last Thursday, the Montgomery County Planning Board took preliminary vote on a project calling for the conversion of MCPS’s bus depot into a commercial zone. The new area would include retail, residential, and office spaces that’d supposedly, “better” Montgomery County’s economy.

“Move that bus!” urged Bob Youngentob of Bethesda, key developer of this project, during an interview with the Gazette.

For months, the Planning Board has attempted to procure alternative land for the storage of buses. However, such efforts yielded little success. Prospective lands were either too fragmented or overtly costly at current inflated prices. In midst of this dilemma, the idea of sending close to fifty buses to every northern MCPS high school was tossed around by some as a viable solution.

To many, the idea immediately evoked strong response. “The Planning Board and the County Council need to understand the value and necessity of the land” says Mr. John Mannes, current Student Member of the Board of Education.

As Mr. Mannes puts it, developing lands allotted for school buses “poses lots of issues.” Storing buses on school property hinders traffic in the mornings and afternoons, as masses of students arrive and depart from campus. In addition, the proposal takes no heed of the amount of weight the lots can support in the long term. Also neglected by the plan are Maryland laws prohibiting school busses from being locked, the lack of a central maintenance facility in northern Montgomery County, and the inability of bus drivers to park their cars in the morning efficiently if the proposal is to be adopted. All in all, such side effects added together may claim more costs than gains.

Ironically, somehow these concerns became incentives for resolution proponents. “What is going to allow this plan to be really successful is getting rid of all the maintenance facilities” says Mr. Youngentob in an interview with Gazette.

“No one is talking about what is being lost.” responded John Mannes, “people forget at the end of the day that the land, as we know it now, is being used for county services, as much as we might desire to have a King Farm 2.0”

By Shannon Jin, SAC Press Correspondent

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