New York’s transit authority has launched a virus-busting pilot that uses a special kind of germicidal ultraviolet light to disinfect the city’s subways and buses.
Calling it “another aggressive step” in keeping New York metro area’s transit system clean and safe, the Metropolitan Transportation Authority (MTA), Columbia University, and Denver-based startup PURO joined forces to develop a miniaturized ultraviolet-C (UVC) lamp that is portable and proven to kill germs.
“It’s been known for more than 100 years, in fact, that UV light is incredibly efficient at killing both viruses and bacteria,” said David Brenner, director of the Center for Radiological Research at Columbia University and adviser on the project, in a video streamed during a Tuesday press conference.
“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,” Brenner said in a press release.
MTA Chief Innovation Officer Mark Dowd said at the presser that the first phase involves cleaning stations, metro trains, and buses with 150 portable devices, on which the MTA will spend about $1 million.
Phase two will expand the pilot to include MetroNorth and Long Island Rail Road commuter trains.
“We’re leaving no stone unturned when it comes to promoting and protecting public heath,” said MTA chairman and CEO Patrick Foye, at the unveiling of MTA’s newest virus-fighting technology.
“The MTA is launching the first-ever UV pilot proven to kill COVID-19,” he said, adding, “that’s big news.”
“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 added.
As part of the proof-of-concept, the MTA used Columbia University’s containment laboratories at biosafety level three to test how effectively the test UVC lamps kill COVID-19.
The lab will new do more tests before drafting a publication for peer-review.
“I don’t want to mislead anybody into thinking this is a cure-all. There is still much work to be done, but this is a significant and promising new development,” Foye said at the presser.
“In this time of great uncertainty, New Yorkers need to feel safe and have the confidence to venture back into normal life,” said Webb Lawrence, co-founder of PURO, adding that the company is “extremely proud to be a part of the MTA’s multi-layered approach” to commuter safety.
“This crisis creates opportunities to bring in new technologies to solve once-in-a-generation challenge,” the MTA’s chief innovation officer added.