Port Authority installing air purification devices in buses and light-rail cars | Health | Pittsburgh | Pittsburgh City Paper

Port Authority installing air purification devices in buses and light-rail cars

click to enlarge Port Authority installing air purification devices in buses and light-rail cars
CP Photo: Kaycee Orwig
Riders standing on a Port Authority bus
Anxieties about riding public transportation have risen during the pandemic, with fears about transit vehicles being vectors for spreading COVID-19. Studies have shown, however, that buses and trains are not extra risky for transmissions. Experts hope this data will reassure those still hesitant about taking public transit as COVID cases rise, but it's clear public transit ridership has yet to fully recover.

In an effort to assuage more of those fears, and to help stop any possible spread, the Port Authority of Allegheny County is installing air and surface purification devices in its fleet of 700 buses and 80 light rail cars. Currently, more than half of Port Authority’s buses are equipped with Proactive Air and Surface Purification units from NFI Parts. Installation inside light-rail cars will begin in early 2022.

"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," says Port Authority CEO Katharine Kelleman in a statement. "In addition to installing Plexiglass barriers for our drivers and manually sanitizing our vehicles, installing these devices is another step to round out our safety strategy."

According to a press release, the air purification units sanitize both the air and the surfaces inside transit vehicles. The PASP units are mounted directly inside the passenger compartments of vehicles and they help “eliminate the virus that causes COVID-19 as well as other germs, microbes, viruses, bacteria, and volatile organic compounds in the air and on surfaces,” according to the release.

Port Authority will also install high-efficiency HVAC filters in buses to further filter the cabin air. The air purification effort will cost $2.9 million and is funded with local, state, and federal dollars.

This effort comes on the heels of some signs that ridership is rebounding for the Port Authority. Between August and September, the authority saw its highest ridership increase since the pandemic began with a 23% jump. Both rail and bus ridership increased during this period, with bus ridership outpacing increases in rail ridership.