By Don Ford

SAN JOSE (KPIX) – Remember those black lights you used in college? Now, Sonoma-Marin Area Rail Transit (SMART) is using its medical grade cousin to help make the trains safer.

Out of sight, in the overhead compartment, is what SMART believes is the latest weapon against COVID, a battery of powerful ultra violet lights located next to the new filter system.

Husani Longstreet is Superintendent of Vehicle Maintenance.

“Anything that comes through the filters will go through the lamps and from there it will be killed,” said Longstreet.

These special high-powered UV tubes come in several different frequencies, thus each appears in a different color, looking more like light sabers. According to SMART Communications and Marketing Manager Matt Stevens, they will kill several different kinds of pathogens, not just COVID-19.

“Once installed in the fleet to combat against the coronavirus and any other pandemic that might stick it’s head up and at the same time against the common cold,” said Stevens.

This is not new technology. UV has been used in hospitals and water treatment plants for years but, it is new to train ventilation systems. Stevens believes SMART is one of the first in the nation using UV in this manner.

“I hope that other transit agencies look at what we are doing and they can learn from us, and they can implement UV lights as a way to kill pathogens just like we are,” said Stevens.

One of those agencies is Bay Area Rapid Transit. Right now, BART is in the testing phase and still evaluating. SMART is moving forward with their custom installs and predicts all 18 trains will be equipped by March.