With masks no longer being required on public transportation, riders on VIA Metropolitan Transit vehicles will enjoy cleaner air thanks to the installation of new air purification systems.

VIA officials say the systems’ installation had been planned before a federal judge struck down the mask mandate on airplanes and other public transportation earlier this month. In the wake of the April 18 ruling, VIA announced masks would be optional for riders.

The air purification system, which is similar to systems used in health care facilities, uses ultraviolet technology to disperse low-dose hydrogen peroxide into the air to mitigate the bacterial load of the air space, according to a VIA press release. The purification devices were installed at a cost of $1.9 million, the transit agency said.

According to the air purification system’s manufacturer, United Safety and Survivability Corp., the substance is safe and eliminates 99% of viruses — including COVID-19 — and bacteria, both in the air and on surfaces. 

The system light is housed through the vehicle HVAC system where air recirculates for passengers.
The system’s ultraviolet light is housed through the vehicle HVAC (heating, ventilation and air conditioning) system where air recirculates for passengers. Credit: Courtesy / VIA Metropolitan Transit

“As ridership continues to grow and our community keeps moving forward, recommendations and guidelines for public transit users may change but their safety will remain our top priority,” said Jeffrey Arndt, VIA’s president and CEO.

As of last month, UV-powered purification devices were installed in all 560 active VIA buses and vans, including VIAtrans Paratransit service for people with disabilities. 

The equipment is installed within the heating, ventilation and air conditioning system of the buses and vans. Untreated air passes through the active air purification system and targets viral particles across the bus. 

The new air purification systems replace the need for manual cleaning during the day, according to VIA.

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Raquel Torres

Raquel Torres is the San Antonio Report's breaking news reporter. She previously worked at the Tyler Morning Telegraph and is a 2020 graduate of Stephen F. Austin State University.