With ridership still down from pre-pandemic levels, a Lower Mainland bus network is working with Teck Resources Limited to test an antimicrobial coating on high-touch areas.
At a Tuesday (Nov. 10) press conference, CEO Kevin Desmond said this would be the first time a North America transit agency would use copper-based products and a protective coating called organosilane to keep the system germ free.
“We’re doing this because research has shown that organosilane coating provides long-lasting protection against bacteria and because copper has self-sanitizing properties that can kill up to 99.9 per cent of all viruses and bacteria on its surface,” Desmond said. “And yes, we believe this can include COVID-19.”
TransLink will test the copper products and organosilane coating on two trolley buses on high-ridership routes and two SkyTrain cars on the Expo and Millennium Lines. The transit agency said the surfaces will be swabbed twice per week to determine antimicrobial effectiveness and assessed for durability at the end of the first month. The four-week pilot project is scheduled to roll out on Nov. 15. The effects will also be studied in a partnership that includes Vancouver Coastal Health (VCH), VGH & UBC Hospital Foundation, the Coalition for Healthcare Acquired Infection Reduction (CHAIR) Canada and the University of British Columbia.
“We understand the public’s concern over being in shared public spaces,” Desmond said, but not that “internationally, there’s no evidence of COVID-19 spread linked to transit.”
The $90,000 pilot project will be paid for by Teck Resources Limited, CEO Don Lindsay said.
Copper’s antimicrobial properties are well known and researched, VCH medical microbiologist Dr. Marthe Charles noted.
“We want to see if these products are durable and if they will retain their ability to kill germs over time while on public transportation,” Charles said. “If this study was to be successful, self-disinfecting surfaces containing copper would become a valuable addition to cleaning hands and cleaning surfaces.”
Desmond said that TransLink didn’t necessarily expect ridership to increase dramatically as a result of this pilot. Ridership has been down significantly, at about 43 per cent of pre-pandemic levels in mid-September. As to whether or not the antimicrobial project could lead to a fare increase, Desmond said it’s “way too early to even be thinking of something like this.”
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