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'A little chaotic': What happened when several CTA lines stopped service at the same time?

'A little chaotic, but that's what public transportation is sometimes' 02:47

CHICAGO (CBS) -- There was chaos for thousands of Chicago morning commuters after a disturbance near the Belmont 'L' station lead to lengthy delays along the Purple, Brown, and Red lines.

As CBS 2 Investigator Megan Hickey reported, there was still no official explanation late Thursday from the Chicago Transit Authority about what exactly happened -- and how this can be prevented in the future.

First responders said a signal fell on the track. Train operators reported hearing a "loud noise." CTA Rail Operation radio traffic shed some light on how a loud "bang" it was.

"We took the power because I heard them say the signal fell over onto the third rail. That's a safety issue," said a CTA operator.

That led the CTA to cut power to a large section of track near the Belmont station and evacuated riders, many who were frantically trying to get to work.

"It takes me not even an hour, maybe, and now it's taking me almost two hours," said one CTA rider.

The Chicago Fire Department said it responded to evacuate stalled trains after the power was removed. The Office of Emergency Management and Communications said it was from a signal falling on track.

All of the 'L' lines were back up and running by noon, but we spotted more than a dozen workers continuing to inspect that section of the tracks late into the afternoon.

Dr. P.S. Sriraj, Director of the Urban Transportation Center at UIC, said that even though it led to massive delays, the CTA acted quickly and appropriately by shutting off power to that section of track.

He said they have rail track inspectors who complete regular inspections of the signals, but he said there's always room for more review.

"It's a wakeup call in a lot of ways," Sriraj said. "The safety can only be improved upon in a legacy system like what we have in Chicago with more funding." 

"A little chaotic, but that's what public transportation is sometimes," a commuter added as she described her experience.

CTA said it followed evacuation procedures and there were no reported injuries. There's still no word for the official cause.

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