Free bus offers elderly a ride to local grocery stores

A recently launched shuttle service is giving Foggy Bottom’s senior citizens a ride to local supermarkets, following the shutdown of the Safeway at the Watergate Complex in December.

The free bus service transports residents ages 60 and above to and from the Trader Joe’s on 25th Street and the Georgetown Safeway.

The solution came after 1,300 local residents signed a petition in the fall attempting to keep Safeway open, citing concerns ranging from food affordability at other grocery stores – like the recently opened Whole Foods Market at The Avenue – and a lack of convenient access to options further away.

“A lot of people are pleased to know the shuttle is there,” Armando Irizarry, who represents the Watergate Complex on the neighborhood’s top advocacy group, the Foggy Bottom and West End Advisory Neighborhood Commission, said.

After hearing his constituents’ food shopping woes, Irizarry contacted Family Matters of Greater Washington, a social service organization, to arrange the shuttle service.

Rinaldo Washington, the organization’s coordinator for the project, said up to 14 passengers at a time can ride. He added that nearly every seat has been filled during rides and passengers have expressed enthusiasm and gratitude for the service.

“We are pretty excited about working with Ward 2 seniors, and we are here to work with seniors in the District, so we are happy to do that,” Washington said. “As long as seniors in Ward 2 see a need, and we are able to do it, it is something we will continue to do.”

The shuttle will run every Wednesday this month, departing from the Watergate East driveway at 10 a.m. and returning between 11:30 a.m. and noon.

Marija Hughes, a senior citizen who lives at the Watergate and started the petition to keep Safeway open, said the service seems to be a hit among her elderly neighbors, who typically face issues including immobility, limited Internet access and tight income.

“Some of the people are not mobile and cannot get around without a car,” she said. “If we don’t have a grocery store today, we are happy, we are ecstatic, to have at least the bus.”

She said Watergate residents still hope another grocery store will eventually move into Safeway’s old location at the complex.

Penzance, the management group for the space, did not return a request for comment.

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