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CTA: Deaths are an 'aberration'

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CTA (Heather Charles/Chicago…)
April 30, 2012|By Tracy Swartz, RedEye

Six male riders—including a teenager—have been killed on CTA tracks since March, an increase from previous years, according to the transit agency's data.

The most recent rail death was last week, when a 27-year-old ex-Marine visiting Chicago was electrocuted after touching the third rail at the South Boulevard stop on the Purple Line. Evanston police said he was on the tracks urinating and accidentally fell on the third rail.

Zachary McKee's death was the second CTA rail death in April. Four riders were killed at CTA stops in March, including Rahmon Harris, 14, who was electrocuted at the Illinois Medical District station on the Blue Line after goofing around with friends, slipping and touching the third rail, according to news reports.

Of the six rail deaths this year, the Cook County Medical Examiner's Office ruled three accidents and three suicides. Half of the deaths this year occurred on the Red Line, and half of the men killed were in their 20s.

The CTA said it recorded nine rail deaths in 2011, 10 deaths in 2010 and six deaths in 2009.

"This is an aberration," CTA spokesman Brian Steele said about the recent uptick in rail deaths. "We have rarely seen more than one fatality in a given month."

The common thread between the deaths this year, Steele said, is that in all but one case, riders intentionally entered the tracks.

"We take multiple steps to promote safety, educate customers and discourage passengers from entering the right-of-way," said Steele, pointing to signs near the tracks warning riders to keep away. "It is extremely dangerous to be on the right-of-way. No one should enter the right-of-way for any reason."

Your attention, please

>>The CTA celebrated the opening of the new Oakton Yellow Line station in Skokie on Monday. The station features sheltered bike racks and a kiss-and-ride drop-off area. The next new stop will be the Morgan station on the Green and Pink lines in the West Loop. The station is slated to open later this month.

>>CTA riders have a chance to win a free trip to New York for a live airing of the Bravo talk show "Watch What Happens Live." Tuesday is the last day for riders to download a Bravo app—available only in Chicago—and take pictures of themselves at any of the 16 downtown bus shelters that feature host Andy Cohen. Riders then enter their e-mail addresses for a chance to win the trip. The app is available at: bit.ly/cedb4j.

>>Granville Red Line riders will earn a bit of a reprieve. The CTA told Going Public the station will close June 1, not May 11 as previously planned, so the agency can procure materials. The station will be the first stop on the North Red Line renovation plan.

Stationary

A weekly dispatch from a CTA station of note

This week: Jackson Blue Line stop

Apart from the smell of the tunnel to the Red Line—which reeked of musty urine on Monday morning—the Jackson Blue Line sets itself apart from other CTA stops with its amenities. The Loop stop has a Redbox kiosk for DVD rentals and perhaps the best feature among CTA stations: Musical performances are allowed there. The Jackson Blue Line stop is one of a few subway stops where the CTA permits people to jam on the platforms as long as they have a permit. If you can stand the smell of the tunnel, the performances at the Jackson Red Line stop are in walking distance—and it won't cost you any Jacksons.

Next up: 79th Red Line stop.

TSWARTZ@TRIBUNE.COM | @TRACYSWARTZ

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