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Consultant wants payback for rail idea

(Map courtesy of BGore Design)

(Map courtesy of BGore Design)

By Paul Snyder

An out-of-work consultant, bored and desperate for a paycheck, is behind using Yahara Station as a connection between commuter and high-speed rail in Madison.

The boredom is gone, and irritation over not getting paid is replacing Barry Gore’s desperation.

Gore has met with Madison Mayor Dave Cieslewicz, Dane County Executive Kathleen Falk and city and neighborhood groups in the area covered by the Dane County Regional Transit Authority to discuss the concepts for Yahara Station.

The plans would put a high-speed rail stop at East Washington Avenue and First Street instead of at the Dane County Regional Airport. By moving the stop to Yahara Station, Gore said, Dane County could connect regional commuter rail to the high-speed tracks and extend the regional service as far east as Waterloo.

VISIT THE DAILY REPORTER’S HIGH-SPEED RAIL PROJECT PROFILE PAGE

The plan sparked the creation of a local advocacy group, Campaign for Yahara Station, and was approved unanimously last week by the Madison Downtown Coordinating Committee.

But Gore’s lack of official standing is working against him, a problem apparent when he and an advocacy group member presented the station plan to the Marquette Neighborhood Association last week.

“At one point toward the end, an older gentleman stood up and said, ‘Well, who are you?’” Gore said. “It’s a fair question.”

Gore is the founder and only employee of BGore Design, a Madison-based consulting firm with no clients. From 1999 to 2003, Gore worked as a planner for Minneapolis-based BRW Inc. on the development of the Northstar commuter rail line in Minneapolis. He worked for HNTB Corp. in Chicago in 2007 and 2008 and has been out of work since February 2008, Gore said.

Sun Prairie Alderman Hariah Hutkowski said Gore talked to the Sun Prairie City Council last week about Dane County commuter rail.

“But I think the question of who this guy actually was was on all our minds,” he said. “We heard him out, and he made some good points.

“But it was a sales pitch to use his services, and it’s not likely we’re going to pursue that any time soon.”

Madison Alderwoman Marsha Rummel said Gore’s ideas are worth hearing.

“He deserves a lot of credit for presenting the city with a serious alternative,” she said. “But at some point, I think, we all take our passions to a point where it’s not going to make us any money.

“I would assume if the city did agree on (Yahara Station), it would go through the normal request for proposals process.”

For Gore, that’s the hard truth about working for free. The initial Yahara Station plans, he said, were the product of being “bored to death” and wanting to keep his skills sharp. Gore said he made the plans easily accessible because he wanted some government or private firm to hire him.

The advocacy group cannot afford to pay Gore for his consultant services, but Madison should hire him, said Troy Thiel, chairman of the Downtown Coordinating Committee and a member of the Campaign for Yahara Station.

“Quite frankly, the city’s behind its peers in planning for this,” he said. “Barry’s already done a lot of the work, so frankly, it makes a lot more sense to hire him instead of paying someone else to do it all over.”

Gore said he is just one of many designers and consultants trying to get an inside track on projects by providing plans at no cost. It’s a sign of how tough the economy is, he said, but it’s a risk that’s not paying off.

“If we all keep working for free,” he said, “why should they pay us?”

(Image courtesy of BGore Design)

(Image courtesy of BGore Design)

5 comments

  1. Many planners and architects have been forced to offer our services on a freelance basis in this economic depression. Many of us are working on a pro bono basis to address areas of interest, and to market our services.

    I did not create the Yahara Station concept and release it into the public realm in the hope that ‘some government agency or private firm would hire’ me. I put the concept out there because I think it is the best solution to a difficult planning issue.

    Marketing ideas risks not getting any compensation, but I think most consultants would agree that the RFP process is also time consuming, expensive, and many times does not produce work.

    I recognize that as the price of doing business. I am not asking for any favors in terms work on the project and will compete in the open process if an RFP is offered. Barry Gore, AICP

  2. I’m not a train track designer, but I can see some key points to this project being moved to Gore’s proposed location. Can the tracks from Waterloo to Madison be shared tracks with some upgrades? Can a station be added later at the airport and connect to St Paul MN when those track are built. To me it make sense to use this location, because if I take the train from Milwaukee to Madison I will need a way to get to my final destination which maybe the airport, but it maybe for shopping. I think I would have better options if the amtrack station was in this location. There may be less arguements from locals if the existing rails were used also.

  3. In the Fourth Quarter 2009 issue of our PASSENGER TRAIN JOURNAL magazine, we featured our own study of the Chicago-Milwaukee-Madison rail passenger corridor, past and present. (You younger readers probably don’t even realize there were a number of passenger trains between Chicago and Madison until 1971.) Our conclusion was that the Yahara Station proposal makes all the sense in the world, especially from the standpoint of Chicago-Milwaukee-Madison trains needing to get as close to downtown as feasible. A large volume of passengers will be students traveling to/from the university as well as those going to the capitol and related buildings. Having the trains serve only Truax field ignore the majority of your customer base. At least at a Yahara Station, connections can be made with city buses and with shuttles to and from the university.

    My fear is that the Yahara Station makes so much sense that it won’t happen. When it comes to transportation issues in the U.S., we often lack the pragmatism that has made overseas rail passenger systems a first choice among travelers. Here, instead, critical transportation decisions are often based on politics rather than true customer needs.–Mike Schafer, editor/PASSENGER TRAIN JOURNAL

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