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Body on tracks causes 3-hour delay on CTA’s Brown, Purple, Red lines

Commuters wait to board buses at the Belmont CTA station Aug. 15. Southbound trains had been halted after a body was found on the tracks at Fullerton. The commuting nightmare was made worse when fares on the ride-hailing services Uber and Lyft spiked in the wake of the incident. | Emily Moon/For the Sun-Times

Thousands of North Side commuters were late for work Tuesday after a body was discovered on CTA train tracks near the Fullerton Station, snarling rail traffic for three hours during the heart of the morning rush.

A source familiar with the incident said the man laid down on the tracks to commit suicide by touching the third rail and was later run over by a train.

Police believe the body was that of a man in his 40s. According to unconfirmed police scanner reports, severed body parts — including a leg — were found at 6:30 a.m.

Trains did not start moving again normally until 9:30 a.m.

As authorities investigated and removed the body, the CTA set up free shuttle bus service for riders of the Brown, Red and Purple lines to hopscotch the affected portion of track.

Commuters head up the steps to the train platform after service resumed at the CTA’s Belmont station. | Emily Moon/For the Sun-Times

But the jampacked CTA shuttle buses struggled to keep up with demand.

Many commuters at stations along all three rail lines turned to Uber, which, because of surge pricing, quickly turned into an expensive option. Some stranded passengers reported briefly seeing Uber prices as high as $70 for a ride downtown from Lincoln Park.

Molly Spaeth, an Uber spokesman, said the company sent more drivers to the area as soon as it became aware of the situation. She couldn’t immediately say how much Uber ridership spiked.

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

Other commuters assessed the situation and decided it was a nice day for a walk. Others jumped on Divvy bikes.

A Divvy spokeswoman said that single rides from Divvy stations near the affected train lines jumped 113 percent in the hours between 6 to 10 a.m., compared to last Tuesday. And the company stocked docking stations with more bikes to meet the demand.

CTA spokesman Steve Mayberry couldn’t say exactly how many CTA customers were affected. “Certainly thousands,” he said.

He said the CTA did its best to deal with a tragic situation.

Commuters board a shuttle at the Fullerton CTA station after trains were halted. | Mitch Dudek/Sun-Times

Frustration at the Belmont station, which also serves the Red, Brown and Purple lines, boiled over at times as crowds of stranded passengers waited to board buses.

“It’s mass chaos,” said commuter Gina Kramer.

An angry commuter started yelling at a CTA employee directing passengers, saying, “You don’t know [where to go]? This isn’t your job?”

CTA employee explains re-route to confused commuters at the Fullerton CTA station. | Mitch Dudek/Sun-Times

“They probably don’t know, cause it’s such a s – – – show,” Chicago resident Rebekah Kane told the man, stepping in to defend the worker. “It’s Chicago.”

When the trains returned to normal at 9:30 a.m., one CTA worker who had absorbed frustrated comments and questions all morning outside the Fullerton station said he was as relieved as the passengers.

“It was like being a punching bag,” he said with a weary smile.

A Metra spokeswoman said there was no significant bump in ridership along their rail line, which runs through the North Side.

Nor did the CTA ask Metra to accept its passengers, a rare and informal you-scratch-my-back arrangement each side is willing to accommodate in a pinch.

Contributing: Sun-Times Wire