TransLink’s copper pilot project moves to second phase

March 5, 2021
The five-week first phase of the project found the copper products killed up to 99.9 percent of all bacteria.

TransLink is advancing a pilot project to evaluate the effectiveness of copper coatings on high-touch surfaces following a five-week initial test phase that found select copper products on transit are durable and kill up to 99.9 percent of all bacteria within one hour of the bacteria’s contact with the surface.

“We are excited about the positive results in the first phase of our copper pilot and look forward to finding out more about copper’s impact on viruses such as the ones that cause COVID-19 in the pilot’s second phase,” said TransLink Interim CEO Gigi Chen-Kuo.

Teck Resources Limited fully funded the first phase of the pilot, which began in November 2020 on two buses and two SkyTrain cars. Teck will also support the second phase of the project. The second phase is expected to launch in the coming months and is designed to verify the results of the initial phase.

"These results reinforce the effectiveness of copper’s antimicrobial properties in killing germs and contributing to better public health. Through our Copper & Health program, Teck has been working with healthcare professionals, academia and others to help make communities safer with copper. We look forward to continuing to work with TransLink and all the partners and working to expand the use of copper on public high-touch surfaces to protect human health,” said Teck President and CEO Don Lindsay.

More train cars and buses will be testing the copper products in the pilot’s second phase, which will also include testing over a longer amount of time to analyze various conditions, focused tests on products that were most effective in TransLink’s transit environment – including copper decals and copper nickel plasma sprays – and public engagement to determine the copper products impact on customer confidence.

“TransLink is proud to be the first North American agency to conduct such a trial to understand how we can continue to make transit safer for our customers. This research could help us, other transit agencies and anyone with surfaces in shared public spaces keep high-touch areas as clean as possible,” added Chen-Kuo.

The pilot is the result of a partnership between TransLink, Teck, Vancouver Coastal Health (VCH), the University of British Columbia (UBC) and the VGH & UBC Hospital Foundation.

More than 1,140 samples were collected and analyzed throughout the first phase of the trial with tests conducted using surface cultures and ATP bioluminescent testing. The microbiological testing methodology was developed and performed by Vancouver Coastal Health at Vancouver General Hospital. Durability testing was performed at UBC. Samples were collected by Westech Cleaning Audit Systems.

“This project has been an incredible opportunity for our team to export our expertise and experience on self-disinfecting materials from the health care setting to our community. We were pleased to see that the results from the trial were in line with our previous studies in the hospital setting and are excited to further our understanding of the application of copper and its antimicrobial properties on public transit,” said Dr. Marthe Charles, medical microbiologist, Vancouver Coastal Health.

About the Author

Mischa Wanek-Libman | Group Editorial Director

Mischa Wanek-Libman serves as editor in chief of Mass Transit magazine and group editorial director of the Infrastructure and Aviation Group at Endeavor Business Media. She is responsible for developing and maintaining the editorial direction of the group and is based in the western suburbs of Chicago.

Wanek-Libman has spent more than 20 years covering transportation issues including construction projects and engineering challenges for various commuter railroads and transit agencies. She has been recognized for editorial excellence through her individual work, as well as for collaborative content. 

She is an active member of the American Public Transportation Association's Marketing and Communications Committee and serves as a Board Observer on the National Railroad Construction and Maintenance Association (NRC) Board of Directors.  

She is a graduate of Drake University, where she earned a Bachelor of Arts degree in Journalism and Mass Communication with a major in magazine journalism and a minor in business management.