If you were to stumble into the PATH Car Wash/Running Repair facility in Jersey City, it would be easy to guess that you had accidentally walked onto the set of the newest Ghostbusters reboot. People in full white bodysuits walk around the facility with glowing green backpacks, seemingly on the hunt for any ghouls or goblins that might be haunting the empty trains. However, you won’t find Bill Murray, Dan Aykroyd, or Harold Ramis (or Melissa McCarthy, Kristen Wiig, or Kate McKinnon) under these suits. Instead, you would see the brave men and women of the Port Authority Trans-Hudson aka PATH, tirelessly working to sanitize the trains in the midst of the Coronavirus pandemic. 

These suited workers are part of a much more real effort to keep PATH trains, which are part of the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey, safe and operational in response to COVID-19. The centerpiece of the new look is the electrostatic sprayer, a 29-pound backpack that uses CDC-recommended disinfectant to remove germs from every surface of the trains.

While the contraption might look jarring at first, it has been highly effective in making PATH’s cleaning process faster and more efficient than ever before. “They are easy to use, reliable, and can effectively disinfect a train car in a matter of minutes,” said Pete Harris, superintendent of PATH’s Car Equipment Division.

The sprayer, flashy as it may be, is only one piece in the larger effort taking place at the Jersey City Car Wash facility. Through the effort of employees working around the clock, PATH has been able to disinfect its 350-car passenger fleet every 24 hours. This comes in addition to the regularly scheduled hand-cleaning cycles completed every 72 hours. “The Car Wash is a hub of activity year-round, not just during crises like the COVID-19 pandemic,” said Harris. “Between regular cleanings and repairs, and the additional manual cleaning and disinfecting due to coronavirus, my team takes their jobs very seriously. They understand that our customers deserve clean and safe rides, and we’re all grateful for their dedication.”

These train-cleaning, germ-busting heroics are not only on PATH, but also the other transit systems in the New York area. Back in March, the MTA announced its updated sanitation strategies to clean frequently used surfaces across all its services, including the subway, bus, Access-A-Ride, Long Island Railroad and Metro North. The MTA also announced last week that they will begin testing an ultraviolet light program proven to kill COVID-19. “Since the beginning of this crisis, I’ve made it very clear to my colleagues across New York City Transit that I’m open to any and every idea to keep the system safe,” said Interim President of New York City Transit Sarah Feinberg. “This pilot is a tangible example of that approach coming to fruition. And this this is just the beginning.

The importance of transit infrastructure and our reliance upon it is often overlooked until there is a disruption that prevents us from using it. Coronavirus is the largest such disruption imaginable, to the point that referring to it as merely a disruption feels wholly inaccurate. However, if we are to draw any silver lining from these changes, it is that we have finally come to recognize the often silent but always vital work of transit workers in the greater New York area. PATH employees have helped get essential workers to and from their destinations, a key mode of transport in the fight against COVID-19.

Next, check out how the MTA is cleaning the NYC subway and other transportation systems.