By Jon Bishop
AYER — MassDevelopment is in the process of establishing a shuttle service from the Littleton Commuter Rail stop to Devens, according to a notice from the agency.
But officials in Ayer say they were never consulted during the planning process.
“The concern is…the Ayer Commuter Rail stop is the closet to Devens”, said Town Administrator Robert Pontbriand. “The town of Ayer has not been approached about this service.”
Why couldn’t Ayer be a part of this service? he said.
Pontbriand said he understands why MassDevelopment likely elected to utilize the Littleton station. It is much bigger than Ayer’s, and it is also part of the Fitchburg line’s reverse commute.
Still, Ayer should have been considered — especially because it would have been in the spirit of regionalism, he said.
“It just feels like (Ayer) was just dismissed,” he said.
According to Mark Sternman, , MassDevelopment has “a request circulating to businesses in Devens asking for zip code data on where their employees live that can be shared with the Central Transportation Planning Staff, which is conducting an analysis that could be used to support a shuttle.
“This is part of an effort spearheaded by Crosstown Connect and the Fitchburg Line Working Group; the latter holds public meetings that Ayer and Shirley representatives can attend if they like,” he said via e-mail.
He said MassDevelopment is also working with the Montachusett Regional Transportation Authority, or MART, “on a longer-term plan to set up a shuttle service among Shirley, Devens, and Ayer.”
“Ayer and Shirley are familiar with this effort as well,” he said.
But Pontbriand said via e-mail Ayer has and continues to participate in the Fitchburg Line working group meetings, and he reiterated that Ayer “was not directly contacted regarding a shuttle bus service to connect Devens to Ayer, which is the closet commuter rail station stop to Devens.
“The town of Ayer is very interested in a shuttle service from the Ayer commuter rail station to and from Devens as well as consideration of a shuttle service that is inclusive of the other train platforms (Ayer and Shirley) and not just exclusively Littleton,” he said.
Also, he said “the town of Ayer is not privy to any specific longer-term plan to set up a shuttle service among Shirley, Devens, and Ayer, though the town would support such a plan.”
His counterpart in Shirley, Patrice Garvin, said via e-mail that she heard about the proposal in a business commerce meeting and added that she knew “nothing in regards to (the) Shirley or Ayer shuttle bus.”
Ayer Board of Selectmen Chairman Chris Hillman said the town was unaware about the Littleton shuttle bus proposal, calling it “very, very, very frustrating.”
“Some dialogue would have been (nice),” he said. “There’s no affiliation with Devens and Littleton.”
He also had strong words for MassDevelopment.
“We’re just like a thorn in their side,” he said. “They really don’t want to be a partner in anything.”
Added Hillman: “I have no desire to support anything up there that doesn’t support the town of Ayer.”
When asked to respond to these assertions, Sternman said via e-mail that each municipality that MART serves has a representative.
“I have no way of knowing whether the Ayer rep informs Ayer officials (about) the information MART distributes to all of its communities,” he said. “MART staff sends legal notices of all of its meetings and agendas.”
MART did not follow-through with a planned April 28, 11:30 a.m. phone call.