Posted on January 19, 2021 in News

Rock Region METRO was awarded $288,750 in Federal Transit Administration funds to purchase and test 35 portable ultraviolet-C light disinfectant systems designed to sanitize public transit vehicles and to share findings regarding the efficacy of such systems with the FTA and other public transit agencies. This is the third FTA competitive grant METRO has received since receiving its first in 2016.

“We are pleased to have been one of the agencies selected for this innovative grant award,” said Charles Frazier, Rock Region METRO chief executive officer. “As active participants in the American Public Transportation Association Health & Safety Commitments Program, we understand how critical public trust is in the public transit industry’s ability to reduce the risk of exposure to coronavirus. We are especially thankful to our federal elected officials for their support of this research demonstration project and understanding of the critical role public transit plays in our post-pandemic economic recovery.”

The grant provides 100 percent funding for 35 portable UVC light disinfectant systems, as well as monies for a consultancy with a third-party independent evaluator to aid the agency in testing protocols and reporting results. The agency will purchase the systems and begin testing them in June 2021 after establishing testing protocols, aiming to complete the research project by August with a final findings report.

“Even before the pandemic, it has been standard practice at METRO to clean our facilities and vehicles regularly. At the beginning of the pandemic, we took several steps to enhance the sanitization of our property, including requiring riders and employees to wear face coverings that fully cover their noses and mouths, arranging for more frequent sanitization of high-touch surfaces on vehicles, installing UVC air handler emitters on our buses and fogging sanitizing product throughout our vehicles daily,” said Frazier.

Unlike the fogging equipment systems, the portable UVC light disinfectant systems do not leave a cleaning product residue on the vehicles, and interest is high within the public transit industry of testing how effectively and efficiently the systems work on mass transit vehicles.

“We look forward to aiding our peers across the country with lessons learned at the conclusion of this project,” said Frazier. “Our ultimate goal is to continue providing as much public transit service as we can while protecting public health and the health of our employees.”

A total of 37 projects across the country were awarded a share of $15.8 million in funding through the FTA COVID-19 Research Demonstration grant program. METRO pursued the grant with the support of U.S. Senators John Boozman and Tom Cotton, Congressman French Hill, Pulaski County Judge Barry Hyde and Metroplan Executive Director Tab Townsell.

“I was happy to lend my support to Arkansas’s largest public transit agency for this grant application,” said Congressman French Hill. “As Arkansas continues to fight against the coronavirus and remain open for business, it is essential that our citizens feel safe using public transit.”

“I am proud of our state’s teamwork combatting COVID-19 and was pleased to support this grant submission on behalf of Rock Region METRO,” said U.S. Sen. John Boozman. “Ensuring Arkansans have safe transportation to work, health care appointments and grocery stores is important not only during the pandemic but as we recover and rebuild our economy.”