New air purification system coming to railcars

Publication Date
Wednesday, March 17, 2021

As part of its continued efforts to create safety and build rider confidence, Metra is significantly upgrading the ventilation system on its railcars with a new three-stage filtration and purification process, the agency announced today. The new system uses ultraviolet light, electrical fields and stronger filters to create the safest possible environment for its customers. Leading the way, Metra is among the first agencies to adopt such a comprehensive system for its railcars - it's another way we can be My Metra for you.

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The new system is expected to remove and eliminate 99 percent of all airborne particulates, bacteria and viruses, including the virus that causes COVID-19. Metra already refreshes the air every four minutes and uses hospital-grade MERV 13 filters on its train cars; the new system will be the equivalent to or better than MERV 17 or HEPA standards.

“The air in our trains is already proven safe and healthy, but this new cutting-edge system sets the highest industry standard for quality,” said Metra CEO/Executive Director Jim Derwinski. “Combined with all the other steps we have taken to clean, disinfect and sanitize our system, and to promote healthy behavior by riders and workers, this is just one more reason our customers can ‘Commute with Confidence.’”

The Metra Board of Directors today approved a contract with Transitair Systems LLC, of Hornell, N.Y., to provide the new air filtration and purification system on nearly 700 railcars for $6.6 million. The contract will cover all cars that are not due to be replaced when new cars (with a similar or better system) enter the fleet. The system, designed to fit in the same space as the existing HVAC system, will be tested on 50 cars before options for additional units are approved.

Under the new system, air will be cleaned in a three-step process:

  • The first step relies on an electrical attraction between airborne particles and the interior surfaces of a filter. Air will pass through one filter, and then through a unit that charges particles in the air, which are attracted to oppositely charged surfaces as the air passes through a second filter.
  • The second step uses ultraviolet light to kill or inactivate bacteria, mold and viruses.
  • In the final step, air passes through a unit with electrically charged ions and electrons, which react with airborne particles to remove or inactivate pollutants and viruses.

The upgraded air filtration and purification system is just one of the many ways Metra has responded to the COVID-19 pandemic. Metra also adopted a new regimen to clean, sanitize, disinfect and inspect all cars and Metra-maintained stations at least once a day, with an extra emphasis on disinfecting high-touch areas as frequently as possible, including the use of electrostatic disinfecting foggers.

Metra has also installed an abundance of signs in stations and on trains that remind riders that masks or face coverings must be worn, and that they should practice physical distancing. Metra also installed two new touchless hand sanitizer dispensers in every car, and customers can use the Ventra app to buy and display tickets, which eliminates close interactions with crews.