Port Authority to Install Air Purifiers to Help Prevent Virus Spread in Pittsburgh
Installation began in the fall and will continue on all 700 buses and 80 light rail cars through early next year.
As concerns about the omicron variant grow, Port Authority of Allegheny County is taking steps to keep its riders and workers as safe as possible.
The transit company announced Tuesday that it will begin installing air purification devices in its fleet of 700 buses and 80 light rail cars. These devices are called NFI Parts Proactive Air and Surface Purification, or PASP for short. They will produce high energy clusters, which safely sanitize both the air and surfaces as they’re distributed throughout the inside of the bus or light rail car.
Mounted inside the passenger compartment, they can kill the virus that causes COVID-19, as well as other ferns, microbes, viruses and bacteria that can cause other illnesses.
According to an information sheet about the purification process, researchers at the University of Florida’s department of medicine found that this technology is effective in reducing harmful viruses, including SARS-CoV-2. It inactivates 73.33% of infectious high levels of the virus on stainless steel surfaces within 15 minutes of exposure to the technology; 93.3% after 60 minutes; 97.7% after 4 hours; and the virus is undetectable within 24 hours of exposure.
“The safety of our riders and employees has always been our top priority, and we remain committed to following every precaution to ensure our vehicles are safe,” said Port Authority CEO Katharine Kelleman in a press release. “In addition to installing Plexiglas barriers for our drivers and manually sanitizing our vehicles, installing these devices is another step to round out our safety strategy.”
Installation began this fall, and more than half the buses in Port Authority’s fleet are now equipped with them. The authority will continue installing the devices in the rest of the buses and begin with the light rail cars early next year.
Port Authority said it will also start installing high-efficiency HVAC filters in buses, which will further ensure riders and employees are breathing in fresh, clean air. These filters will be installed during regularly scheduled preventive maintenance.
The PASP units and HVAC filters cost the Authority $2.9 million and were paid for with local, state and federal funding, according to the press release.
Port Authority has also taken a range of measures to keep folks safe since the start of the pandemic. All of its vehicles are sanitized daily, and standee lines have been moved back six feet to keep a safe social distance between riders and the operator. Signs have been installed, too, reminding riders to follow Centers for Disease Control and Prevention guidelines while on the bus or light rail and while waiting at stops, and masks are required for all riders and operators inside stations and on all Port Authority vehicles. Riders will also be able to find hand sanitizing dispensers at 60 locations along the bus, light rail and incline routes.
While the Environmental Protection Agency says air purifiers, when used properly, can indeed reduce airborne contaminants in a small space, it isn’t effective on its own to fully protect against COVID-19. But when used alongside what the agency calls “other best practices recommended by the CDC and other public health agencies,” including masking and social distancing, air filtration can become part of a plan to reduce the potential for COVID-19 transmission indoors — especially in spaces like public transit where additional ventilation isn’t really possible.