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Uber, Lyft to refund customers following CTA chaos

The area under the Belmont CTA station became crowded and the situation grew tense as commuters tried to get downtown Tuesday. | Emily Moon/For the Sun-Times

Uber and Lyft have decided to refund customers who were thumped with huge surge pricing fees Tuesday morning when hordes of CTA passengers turned to the popular ride-sharing services because train lines on the North Side came to a grinding halt during the morning rush.

Uber riders who caught a ride in the affected areas along the Brown, Red, and Purple Lines near the Belmont and Fullerton stops between 6 a.m. and 10 a.m. can expect to receive an email explaining that their bills will be reduced to the price their ride would have cost on an average weekday.

The refunded money should appear in customer accounts within three to five business days.

The bottom line for Uber drivers who profited from the surge pricing will not be effected. The company is eating the loss.

Uber began refunding money and notifying customers via email Thursday morning.

Scott Coriell, a spokesman for Lyft — Uber’s main competitor — said the company is also working to refund passengers. Whereas Uber is being proactive in refunding its customers, it’s up to Lyft riders to reach out to get their money back.

The transit disruption began when a man lay down on the tracks at Fullerton Station, halting traffic on all three train lines from roughly 6:30 a.m. to 9:30 a.m.

CTA buses deployed to shuttle passengers struggled to keep up with demand as the masses gathered outside the stations trying to figure out how to get to work on time.

“Uber knows that people rely on us to get from A to B, and we’re proud to serve riders in every neighborhood across Chicago,” Uber spokeswoman Molly Spaeth said in an emailed statement on Thursday.

“While we took steps to help mitigate the impact on commuters as soon as we learned of the CTA stoppage, we have issued refunds to riders who experienced higher-than-average prices in the affected areas.”

It’s unclear how many customers will receive refunds, she said.

In his email, Coriell said, “We’re in the process of refunding passengers who experienced higher than normal prices as a result of this tragic incident. We encourage anyone who experienced a higher price who has not already received a refund to contact us immediately.”

Uber sent additional drivers to meet demand on Tuesday morning. And at 8 a.m., the company enacted measures to cap surge pricing, but Spaeth could not say where exactly pricing was capped.

About 92 percent of Uber rides during the maelstrom were under $40. On the other end of the spectrum, .3 percent of Uber users faced jaw dropping charges of $100 or above.

Spaeth was unsure if it was the first time the company resorted to such measures in the face of a public transit emergency that disrupted thousands of commuters.