When the red Inc. Well phone rang in mid-November 2011, we heard a rumor about the CTA potentially outsourcing to a California vendor to upgrade the pay kiosks to accept credit, debit and even phone payments. Apparently, while some Chicago companies were being considered -- you know, to keep all that money in the local city economy -- an undisclosed California one was leading the pack.
At the time, we did not do a story on it because there was not much more information available. But that changed on Friday, when Bill Turner, a source who is "close to the procurement" came forward with some details on why there has not been much development since November along.
"I believe that this issue remains unresolved and that local minority firms have not been vocal on this issue for fear of jeopardizing other businesses with the CTA," said Turner.
But what's truly interesting is not just the geographical disparity between companies putting in bids, but also the range of the bids themselves.
"Cubic bid $454 million; Samsung bid $1.56 billion… The difference between the bids is puzzling," Turner said.
Actually, almost everything about this proposed undertaking is puzzling.
Turner further explains he understands the board's intention was to support and encourage local participation, but "if the board were to accept a bid and then subsequently relax… requirement[s], I think it would be interesting to ask why this was relaxed and why other vendors weren't provided this opportunity to propose alternatives."
In other words, it makes sense on one level that if the city can tap a company that already has the resources in place to upgrade stuff here cheaply without having to first manufacture it. However, it seems counter to civic pride to reach across the country or the glove to fix something that's right in our backyard.
Currently the whole deal seems to be stuck in limbo, but it's interesting how it has panned out to this point.
David Wolinsky is a freelance writer and a lifelong Chicagoan. In addition to currently serving as an interviewer-writer for Adult Swim, he's also a columnist for EGM. He was the Chicago city editor for The Onion A.V. Club where he provided in-depth daily coverage of this city's bustling arts/entertainment scene for half a decade. When not playing video games for work he's thinking of dashing out to Chicago Diner, Pizano's, or Yummy Yummy. His first career aspirations were to be a game-show host.