A new device available to public transit agencies uses an ultraviolet (UV) light source to eliminate harmful biological elements, odors and bacterial and viral growths in bus and train air conditioning and ventilation systems.
This germicidal UV technology, developed and licensed by a partnership between JKA Co. of Venice, Fla., and Steril-Aire in Cerritos, Calif., has been piloted by several transit properties and given favorable reviews.
Houston’s Metropolitan Transit Authority of Harris County (METRO) and Miami-Dade Transit have both completed 18-month pilot programs for buses and have reported positive results.
John Franks, senior director of bus maintenance for METRO, said the technology has been positive for employee health conditions and could also contribute to ridership increases. “We are currently researching monies for retrofits, and we have included this system in specifications for new buses,” he said.
Essentially, the device, called the Clean Air System, uses rays from UV lamps to irradiate microorganisms such as bacteria, fungi, viruses and other potentially dangerous biological material, rendering them unable to reproduce. The UV light kills the agents responsible for colds, flu, hepatitis, fungus, algae and even biological terror weapons.
The implications are widespread. During pilot programs, employee respiratory problems showed improvement, and the number of cut and scrape infections among maintenance workers decreased. The technology is also thought to be responsible for decreasing employee sickness and reducing absenteeism; protecting against unpleasant smells on buses and trains; and saving money on air conditioning maintenance. There may be other benefits, too.
“We are gathering more data, but at this time, we feel there is a savings in fuel economy,” Franks said. Head pressure of the air conditioning system was lowered, which over the long term leads to efficient operation and longer lasting components, Franks added.
The Metropolitan Atlanta Rapid Transit Authority (MARTA) is also testing the device in a rail application. Results of MARTA’s pilot program have not been released.