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City Says Ride-Share Companies 'Took Advantage' Of CTA Meltdown With Hikes

By  Kelly Bauer and Tanveer Ali | August 15, 2017 8:41am | Updated on August 16, 2017 8:43am

 Commuters spill out of an
Commuters spill out of an "L" stop after a CTA stoppage Tuesday morning.
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Lizzie Schiffman Tufano

THE LOOP — When CTA trains stopped running from the North Side into the Loop because of a death on the tracks Tuesday morning, Uber and Lyft sprung into action by raising rates.

And the City of Chicago isn't happy about it.

"It is unfortunate that at least two ride-share companies chose to take advantage of this morning’s difficult commuter situation," said Lilia Chacon, a spokeswoman for the city's Business Affairs and Consumer Protection department.

Chacon said the city's two largest ride-share companies, Uber and Lyft, were behind the surge. But she said the companies were not necessarily doing anything illegal by raising rates.

The city said there are other ride services that offer flat rates, and noted riders can use Curb or Arro to hail taxis.

Lyft blamed an "incredible surge" of demand as commuters spilled out of packed CTA stations and tried to book a ride to get to work.

There weren't enough drivers working, so the companies boosted rates to get more drivers out to pick up rides, the company said.

The result: eye-popping prices, such as $110 to get from Lakeview to the Loop. That trip could cost as little as $13 without surge pricing.

"We did everything we could to increase the supply of drivers, communicating about the incident and providing monetary incentives to get them to the area," according to a statement from Lyft. "Still, demand outpaced supply, and prime-time pricing did occur."

Trying to ensure drivers would work to meet the demand, both companies implemented surge pricing. Lyft charged up to 6½ times more than normal. Uber was up at least 3½ times the normal fare, according to a rider.

"As soon as we found out about the tragic incident this morning, our team worked to diligently monitor the situation and get more drivers on the road to help ensure riders could get from A to B," Uber said. "We are encouraging riders that have specific questions about their trip fare to reach out to our support team directly so they can take a closer look.”

Trains were stopped from 6:35 a.m. to about 9:30 a.m. after a man reportedly jumped in front of a train near the Fullerton stop. As investigators and first-responders arrived at the scene, the CTA was forced to halt Red, Blue and Purple lines in the area, setting up shuttle buses to try to move passengers past the stoppage.

The ride-share companies weren't able to say exactly how much of an uptick in use they saw as commuters tried to find a way to work.

"This morning's incident presented a unique challenge because it was unexpected, immediate and occurred during prime commuting hours," Lyft said.

The trains were stopped after a man's body was found on the tracks near Fullerton.


 Surge prices shot up Tuesday morning as riders scrambled to get off trains.
Surge prices shot up Tuesday morning as riders scrambled to get off trains.
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Courtesy Lizzie Schiffman Tufano