Thursday, April 10, 2014

The TL;DR of my latest Ventra piece

Today, Gapers Block published my latest piece, How Lawsuits, Lobbyists and Parking Meter Deals Led to Ventra.

In it, I overlap a timeline of Cubic Transportation System's less than savory legal and lobbyist history with the suspicious events and key players leading up to the creation of the Ventra card.

You can view it in plain text or the sweet interactive version I made courtesy of Northwestern University Knight Lab's free tool, StoryMap JS.

It's a long read, so here are the highlights:
  • Cubic's legal battles in metropolitan-area transit systems include New York City, London, Sydney, Washington D.C., Los Angeles, Miami, Houston, and -- on two separate occasions -- Atlanta
  • Cubic used well-connected lobbyists in Vancouver, the Bay Area, and Sydney to help secure multimillion dollar fare collection contracts
  • William Blair & Co., the firm that set up the privatization of Chicago's parking meters and garages, was put in charge of the CTA's Open Fare bid 
  • The bidding began in late August 2009, just months after the city's Inspector General deemed William Blair's parking meter valuation too low by $975 million 
  • WB employees visited Rahm Emanuel in the White House twice during the first part of the bidding phase
  • One of the losing bidders in Chicago was Xerox, who won a similar Open Fare system bid in Philadelphia the same day the CTA approved Cubic's bid for what became Ventra
  • Cubic donated $1,500 to PAC for Rahm's mayoral campaign
  • Most interestingly of all, Ventra is pretty much exactly what the original CTA Open Fare RFP asked for
Now that I think about, looks like I need a TL;DR for my own TL;DR. 

In that case: When you combine a secretive investment bank and a litigious transit company that both have ties to Rahm Emanuel, you get Ventra.


Steven Vance said...

Anything to say about Transport for London and Cubic?

Jason said...

My previous piece about Cubic's fare card errors covered several incidents with TfL and Cubic.

My guess is the run of Barclays credit/debit/Oyster cards Cubic made for TfL helped them win the CTA bid, since there was a specific requirement in it for a bank card component.

...which is why all the similar errors they've had with Ventra (despite a decade or so of Oyster trial-and-error) are that much more infuriating.

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