CTA Tosses out Rail Car Bids, Will Start over on New Fleet Contract

May 20--The CTA has rejected the only two bids submitted to manufacture 846 rail cars and instead will restart the procurement process by the summer in an effort to drum up more competition and lower pricing, transit officials said Tuesday .

The new CTA request for proposals from manufacturers will drop a requirement in last year's original tender process that the next generation of rail cars, to be called the 7000 Series, must be compatible with the CTA's 5000 Series cars, which are the newest current series and still being delivered by Bombardier Transit Corp.

"We decided to seek new bids for the cars to encourage a wider range of bids from rail car manufacturers around the world,'' CTA spokeswoman Tammy Chase said. "We think that requiring compatibility so that the two types of cars can be coupled together was one of the factors that limited the responses we received."

But one factor that's at the top of the list for riders -- a comfortable seating layout -- won't be fiddled with during the rebid, officials said.

The CTA announced last year that, based in part on rider feedback, it won't buy more cars with the unpopular center-facing, scoop-seat benches that dominate the 5000 Series fleet. Riders have complained that the benches result in passengers squeezed shoulder-to-shoulder while also being at eye level to the crotches and buttocks of standing passengers, who often step on the toes of seated riders.

Instead, the 7000 Series cars will be outfitted with a combination of forward- and- rear-facing seats and some aisle-facing seats, perhaps laid out in short rows of two- and- four-seat combinations near the doors, officials said.

Bombardier and Sumitomo Corp. of America were the only two companies that competed for the 7000 Series contract when the CTA opened up bids in January. Bombardier was the low bidder.

Bombardier bid $1.39 billion to produce 846 7000 Series rail cars over 10 years. The Montreal-based company has so far delivered 458 of 714 cars in the 5000 Series under a $1.14 billion contract, officials said. Those 5000 Series cars are operating on the Pink, Green, Red, Yellow and Purple lines, officials said.

Sumitomo and its manufacturing partner, Nippon Sharyo U.S.A., submitted a $1.55 billion bid to build the 846 7000 Series cars, officials said. The companies have not previously sold rail cars to the CTA.

The CTA last year stipulated that the base order would start out with 100 rail cars. Under the new procurement process, the transit agency plans to ask for a larger base order, which is expected to spur more competition and better pricing, Chase said.

CTA officials said inter-connectivity between different models of rail cars is desirable but not vital to operations. They pointed out that 5000 Series cars cannot be coupled with the 3200 Series and 2600 Series because they are not electronically compatible.

The new round of bidding, which will be open to Bombardier and Sumitomo as well as other companies, gives the CTA the opportunity to consider new designs and engineering changes, Chase said.

"The 7000 Series cars could end up looking different than the standard CTA car for the past 40 years,'' she said.

Once a contract is awarded, the CTA expects to have the first 7000 Series cars delivered in 2017, she said. Earlier plans called for taking delivery in 2016.

There currently are about 1,200 rail cars in the CTA fleet. The CTA is looking to reduce the average age of its rail cars to less than 10 years old by 2022.

jhilkevitch@tribune.com

Twitter @jhilkevitch

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