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Gapers Block Staffer Sues CTA For Documents Related To Ventra Deal

By Chuck Sudo in News on Jul 31, 2014 1:50PM

2013_11_12_ventra.JPG Jason Prechtel, a reporter for Gapers Block, filed a lawsuit against the Chicago Transit Authority Wednesday, claiming the transit agency violated the Freedom of Information Act by not providing him with all the records he requested pertaining to how CTA awarded the nearly $500 million contract to Cubic Transportation Systems in what is now the Ventra shared-fare payment system.

Prechtel, who has arguably written some of the most detailed articles on Ventra and Cubic’s problems implementing similar shared-fare systems for transit agencies around the world, claims he requested all records from all bidders for the contract during CTA’s request for proposals “allow the public to evaluate whether CTA selected the best bidder.” He was provided instead with what he called “only a small and woefully incomplete subset of records.”

According to the lawsuit, CTA rejected many of Prechtel’s requests because they “are not sufficiently important to justify the alleged burden in producing them.” CTA spokesman Brian Steele told the Tribune the agency “provided most of the documents that the requester was seeking.”

In addition to the documents he requested, Prechtel is seeking damages ranging between $2,500 and $5,000 for every FOIA request he filed. CTA's initial rollout of Ventra last summer was marred with technical issues including slow reaction times for taps, fare value not being added to cards, double charges, and cards that were unrecognized by readers. The program also came into question for its ability to double as a debit card.