As mass transit systems look for solutions that will support the safe return of ridership, many are realizing that the options available today don’t address what is now known about the COVID-19 virus: The highest risk of transmission is through contact with respiratory droplets, such as those produced when speaking, coughing or sneezing. Additionally, many of these options require extensive labor and vehicle downtime, which further burden transit operations already in crisis. With transit operations seeking additional budget and even more efficient ways to operate, returning ridership requires an innovative solution to complement the additional cleaning and personal protection efforts, such as wearing a face covering.
Virus deactivation today typically consists of episodic cleaning, which is effective at disinfecting surfaces — as long as they are both applied correctly and left wet for the required “dwell time.” However, these products offer little or no protection once the vehicle is in use and potentially boarded by an infected passenger or operator. Furthermore, the application of these chemicals is time-consuming and often requires personal protective equipment for the application.
Existing HVAC systems using UV lighting or filters are proven effective at de-activating airborne viruses in a lab. Though they are positioned as a “continuous” solution, they do not account for the rapid shifts in air flow resulting from opening and closing doors and windows. And, these systems provide no data (real-time or historical) about their effectiveness.
The future of health and safety on-board public transit depends on smart, innovative and connected solutions that can work concurrently to prevent airborne viral transmission, inform passengers throughout their trip and simultaneously report on the success of these measures, such as an intelligent air treatment solution.
By installing an air sensor on-board, this smart system can adjust to the changing airflow and conditions in the vehicle, much like a thermostat regulates the temperature in your home and office. Additionally, transit operators can validate the amount of air treatment deployed, which will provide historical and real-time data on the efficacy of the solution.
Continuous air treatment systems that can integrate with a variety of on-board video security systems, and passenger information solutions is key. By utilizing these existing technologies, such as on-board security cameras and artificial intelligence, the system can further adjust to conditions in the vehicle, such as the number of people on-board and their proximity to each other. With an integrated system, management software can provide detailed reports of air treatment levels during the route, deliver remote notifications regarding the system health and any issues that may arise, and connect to other on-board devices to provide additional adaptive controls. Capacity calculations that utilize surveillance footage can automatically detect the number of occupied and available seats in real time. This information can then be relayed to passengers via on-board passenger information systems to promote social distancing.
Recently, there has been increased interest in the use of thermal cameras to detect potential infections through a passenger’s body temperature. Using a fully integrated solution, this technology can be used to alert the control center of health risks on-board the vehicle, as well as trigger the air treatment system to increase the level of treatment in the air in a discreet way to provide additional protection for other passengers and operators on-board. This also eliminates interaction and enforcement by the operator.
By utilizing an integrated and adaptive solution, transit agencies can efficiently monitor vehicles and implement an air treatment solution that prevents viral transmission while simultaneously supporting the efficiency of transit operations and communications to passengers. Current transit technology solutions are most often regarded as ways to improve efficiencies, train operators and manage fleet health, but the industry is headed toward a future where science-backed technology can do more, including protecting the health of transit operators and passengers and allowing a safe return to ridership.
Kirk Goins is CEO of Luminator Technology Group (Luminator), a global manufacturer of technology, communication and safety solutions for mass transit applications. By leveraging Luminator’s extensive engineering resources, Goins has led the organization in developing integrated best-in-class solutions for on and off-board passenger information, video security, lighting and other safety solutions designed to increase the safety, efficiency and intelligence of transit operations. Goins has more than 30 years of experience in industrial automation and technology, having previously served as CEO for the Paslin Company, a systems integrator focused on robotic automation in the automotive market, and the North American CEO for manufacturing assembly company Comau Inc.