MTA launches UV light pilot program to kill COVID-19 on NYC subways and buses

Posted On Wed, May 20, 2020 By

Posted On Wed, May 20, 2020 By In Policy, Transportation

Demonstration of UV disinfection technology at Corona Maintenace Facility; Photo Marc A. Hermann / MTA New York City Transit on Flickr

The Metropolitan Transportation Authority will use ultraviolet light to remove the coronavirus from its subway and bus system, officials announced on Tuesday. For phase one of the $1 million pilot program, the agency will deploy 230 UV light lamps next week on some trains, buses, and MTA facilities. The devices will be used in cars during overnight station closures and at maintenance yards in Corona, Coney Island, Jamaica, and Pelham. If the first phase of the pilot proves successful, the program will expand to Long Island Railroad and Metro-North trains.


Demonstration of UV disinfection technology at Corona Maintenace Facility; Photos Marc A. Hermann / MTA New York City Transit on Flickr

The agency has been working with PURO, the Denver-based startup company that developed the devices, since March to determine the potency of the light technology. According to the MTA, Dr. David Brenner from Columbia University’s Center for Radiological Research, who has been testing the efficacy of the UV lamps, which omit rays called “UVC,” reported the first-ever demonstrated test that shows the technology efficiently kills the virus that causes COVID-19.

UVC light has been proven to remove viruses in places like hospital operating rooms, urgent care clinics, fire stations, and universities, according to the MTA. The machines emit flashes of light that hit surfaces of the subway with ultraviolet light.

“What we are doing here is reducing the level of the virus in subways, and therefore decreasing the risk of anybody catching COVID-19 on the subway,” Brenner said in a statement.


Photos Marc A. Hermann / MTA New York City Transit on Flickr

The UV lamps are just one component of the agency’s COVID-19 disinfection plan. Earlier this month, the MTA began overnight cleaning of every subway car and station, which requires a nightly shutdown of service between 1 a.m. and 5 a.m.

The round-the-clock sanitation program involves a daytime terminal car cleaning where crews remove any trash, clean spills and biohazards, and spot clean surfaces, like seats and floors. Trains both running at night (but with no passengers) and those at rail yards will also be disinfected nightly, which includes the removal of garbage and graffiti, mopping of floors, and disinfecting surfaces.

“For nearly three months, the MTA has worked relentlessly to disinfect our entire fleet of subways and buses but we’ve always promised that we would explore any and all new approaches available to us as well,” MTA Chair Pat Foye said in a press release. “The launch of this UVC pilot represents a promising next step in our ongoing efforts to identify technologies that can keep our customers and employees as safe as possible.”

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Photos: Marc A. Hermann / MTA New York City Transit on Flickr

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