MTA’s Metro-North Railroad President Catherine Rinaldi and Chief Mechanical Officer James...

MTA’s Metro-North Railroad President Catherine Rinaldi and Chief Mechanical Officer James Heimbuecher unveiled the pilot railcar air purification technology at Grand Central Terminal on Oct. 15.


New York’s Metropolitan Transportation Authority (MTA) is piloting a new technology to filter and purify air inside rail cars for its Metro-North Railroad and Long Island Railroad.

The air purifying system, developed by Md.-based Knorr Brake Company and its Merak North America division, uses an electrical field to generate a wave of ionized particles that destroy airborne viruses, bacteria, and particulate matter, including COVID-19. Incorporated into the railroads’ existing ventilation systems, the system replaces the air inside a rail car approximately 12 times an hour, or about once every five minutes.

The technology was introduced as part of MTA’s “COVID Response Technology” that was announced in July to make public transit safer and more responsive to the needs of riders. The pilot follows a successful proof-of-concept conducted by Metro-North over the summer.

“As more and more customers return to Metro-North trains, they want to be confident that we are doing everything that we can to keep them safe and healthy,” said Metro-North Railroad President Catherine Rinaldi. “If the pilot proves successful, not only does this new air purification technology kill COVID-19, it kills any virus including the standard flu or bacteria that cause the common cold, and even particulate matter like diesel fumes. The benefits provided by this new system would last well after the pandemic has ended.”

The technology was installed in two HVAC units of a Metro-North car on Oct. 7 and is being installed by the end of the month on a car of MTA’s Long Island Railroad. Researchers with the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency will work in partnership with the MTA to test the technology to determine its effectiveness in meeting the needs for public transit.

In addition to launching its COVID response plan, the MTA has heightened cleaning and disinfecting of cars and stations, deployed customer ambassadors to assist with loading and rider information, installed hand sanitizer dispensers at stations along with vending machines selling personal protective equipment, and floor decals to assist customers with social distancing.