British Columbia

COVID-busting copper surfaces coming to a bus or SkyTrain near you

TransLink is introducing copper surfaces to a handful of buses and SkyTrain cars is an pilot project to test the natural anti-microbial properties of the metal in a transit setting.

TransLink is launching a pilot project to test the self-sanitizing properties of copper on high touch surfaces

The TransLink copper-surfaces pilot will roll out on two SkyTrain cars and two electric trolley buses. (TransLink)

When most people think of copper, they picture pennies, pots and batteries.

But the shiny brown metal also has pandemic busting, self-sanitizing powers that have caught the attention of TransLink during the time of COVID-19.

Copper, as it turns out, has anti-microbial qualities that could make it an important piece of the puzzle for safeguarding riders if applied to high touch surfaces like the poles people hang on to when taking transit. 

In a new pilot project, Teck Resources is providing $90,000 to install copper surfaces on two busy electric trolley buses and on two SkyTrain cars running on the Expo and Millennium lines.

"This is an example of testing out new technology and innovation," said outgoing TransLink CEO Kevin Desmond. "Hopefully this has legs."

According to an infectious disease expert with Vancouver Coastal Health, copper can kill bacteria and viruses on contact.

"It can create a situation where it breaks through the membrane of the microorganism, causing leakage and ultimately the death of the microorganism," said Dr. Marthe Charles.

Charles said the transit study is a continuation of research already taking place at local hospitals. Three copper surfaces and an antimicrobial surface treatment will be tested during the four-week pilot. 

The project is the first of its kind for a North American transit system.

Desmond said TransLink ridership has plateaued since the summer and remains at around 43 per cent of pre-pandemic levels. 

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