The Metropolitan Transportation Authority (MTA) will use ultraviolet light to clean the New York City subway system, adding to the daily disinfecting process Gov. Andrew Cuomo (D) announced last week.
The MTA will partner with scientists at Columbia University who had previously explored whether the light could be used to kill other diseases being spread through public transportation, the New York Daily News reported Sunday.
Transit officials told the Daily News that UV lamps will be placed inside cars and buses at two MTA rail yards and a single bus depot beginning next week.
While research is ongoing into whether the lights kill the coronavirus specifically, it would be “inconceivable to me that it wouldn’t kill this particular virus,” Dr. David Brenner, director of Columbia University’s Center for Radiological Research, told the Daily News.
“There’s no doubt that it’s going to have some beneficial effect, because if you can remove all the viruses every morning then that’s going to be a big plus,” Brenner said.
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“During the day the viruses start to come back as people are in the compartment and they’re coughing or sneezing or whatever.”
Transit officials hope to expand the program to more trains and buses if the lights are found to be effective on the handful where it will be tested.
While the rays, called UV-C, can be harmful to people, Dr. Brenner said his team is working on a technology called “far UV-C” that could potentially kill the virus without harming passengers. [This publisher is on that committed "far UV-C"
Such a technology could allow the cleaning to take place while the trains run, he said.
The announcement comes the week after Cuomo announced the subway will close from 1 a.m. to 5 a.m. beginning this Wednesday for nightly cleaning. On Sunday, the governor said the early-morning shutdowns will continue for the rest of the pandemic.