Accordian Bus Contract Hits Sour Note

CTA and bus manufacturer are still in court

By Matt Bartosik
|  Wednesday, Jul 22, 2009  |  Updated 2:26 PM CDT
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Accordian Bus Contract Hits Sour Note

Chicago Transit Authority

The "accordion-style" buses that were pulled from the streets in February will be sent back to their manufacturer.

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In February, the CTA removed 226 articulated buses—or, "accordion buses"—because of cracks and structural problems.

"The buses will remain out of service until an independent structural expert can inspect them and advise the CTA on their safety," a CTA release said at the time.

But now transit officials are saying that those buses will never be returned to the streets.

The 60-foot long buses were supposed to run for 12 years and about 500,000 miles. But after only four years and relatively few miles, the buses were cracking, due to a defect in the fastening system that connects the front and back sections.

So the CTA pulled the buses, which made up about six percent of the entire fleet, fortunately before any serious problems occurred.

On Thursday, North American Bus Industries, the buses' manufacturer, voluntarily recalled the vehicles in question in an effort to inspect and repair them.

But it's too little, too late for Chicago transit officials.

"Given the six-year performance history of these buses, concerns about their long-term structural integrity and ongoing litigation with the manufacturer, it does not make sense to expend any more of our limited resources on these buses," CTA President Richard Rodriguez told the Tribune.

The "ongoing litigation" Rodriguez refers to is the battle in Cook County Circuit Court between the CTA and NABI.

According to the CTA, the agency knew that the buses were problematic when they bought them, but they accepted them anyway on the condition that the manufacturer would fix the defects before the buses were delivered.

But when multiple small frame cracks first appeared in 2003, the CTA considered it obvious that those repairs were never made, so they stopped payment on the $102 million contract in 2004.

In 2008, NABI filed a Breach of Contract lawsuit. The CTA countersued, arguing that a recently-hired consultant's analysis reveals that the manufacturer never met the contractual requirements.

Rodriguez says the agency plans to send all the buses back to the Alabama-based manufacturer.

Matt Bartosik, editor of Off the Rocks' next issue, wonders how many times he sat in the buses' flexible joint.

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