MTA Launches Pilot With COVID-19-Killing UVC

Written by Andrew Corselli, Managing Editor
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Demonstration of UV disinfecting technology at the Corona Maintenance Facility on Tue., May 19, 2020. Photo: Marc A. Hermann / MTA New York City Transit

The Metropolitan Transportation Authority (MTA) announced an ultraviolet (UV) light pilot program proven to kill COVID-19, with the first phase set to launch on subways, buses and other New York City Transit facilities throughout the system early next week.

The MTA pilot will deploy approximately 150 dual-headed mobile devices from Denver-based startup PURO Lighting to test and evaluate the efficiency and cost-effectiveness of UVC technology in a number of settings across New York City Transit including trains, buses, stations and occupational facilities, using strict protocols and procedures to ensure the safety of the employees and customers. After evaluation, the pilot’s second phase will expand to Long Island Rail Road and Metro-North.

UVC light is “an efficient, proven and effective technology for eliminating viruses, including SARS-CoV-2 that causes COVID-19, from surfaces in MTA’s system. UVC is demonstrated to kill viruses in many other applications, including hospital operating rooms, urgent care clinics, universities and fire stations.” The first phase of the pilot will focus on the feasibility of using UVC to eradicate COVID-19 in rolling stock, including car classes R188, R62, R46, R68, and R160, stations and yards at Corona, Coney Island, Jamaica and Pelham. Occupational facilities, including maintenance areas, crew rooms, operations and technology centers, and offices, will also be included in the pilot.

In March, MTA began its work with PURO to successfully demonstrate the efficacy of UVC technology in subways and buses. The proof-of-concept used miniaturized UVC technology to allow Transit personnel to move the lamps easily and efficiently in and out of rolling stock and fixed locations.

Demonstration of UV disinfecting technology at the Corona Maintenance Facility on Tue., May 19, 2020. Photo: Marc A. Hermann / MTA New York City Transit

As part of the proof-of-concept, the MTA requested that Dr. David Brenner, Director, Center for Radiological Research, Columbia University gain access to their containment laboratories at biosafety level three for the purpose of testing the efficacy of miniaturized UV lamps to kill COVID-19. This week, Brenner has reported the first-ever demonstrated test of UVC that efficiently kills the virus that causes COVID-19. The lab will now conduct additional testing before submitting the test for peer-reviewed publication.

“This is a first-of-its-kind pilot when it comes to transportation agencies around the world and we are proud to be a part of it,” said MTA Chairman and CEO Patrick J. Foye. “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. 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.”

“Since the beginning of this crisis, I’ve made it very clear to my colleagues across New York City Transit that I’m open to any and every idea to keep the system safe,” said Interim President of New York City Transit Sarah Feinberg. “This pilot is a tangible example of that approach coming to fruition. And this is just the beginning. We continue to explore new options every day as we undertake the largest cleaning and disinfecting regimen in MTA history during the overnight closure of subway.”

“The UV light that will be used in the current overnight subway and bus disinfection program is very efficient in killing the virus that is responsible for COVID-19,” said Brenner. “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.”

Demonstration of UV disinfecting technology at the Corona Maintenance Facility on Tue., May 19, 2020. Photo: Marc A. Hermann / MTA New York City Transit
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