For many Americans, a driver’s license represents freedom. It is our de facto government-issued photo ID in this country for just about everything. However, it is inextricably linked to its primary raison d’etre—the right to drive a car. Yes, you can order a non-driver photo ID card, but it is still issued by the state’s department of transportation. No matter how you cut it, your identity in the USA is linked to a car culture.
In Governor John Hickenlooper’s speech last week in Philadelphia he talked about the “freedom” to have transportation options—the right to have access to mass transit as well as auto-centric infrastructure. What if we applied this philosophy to transform our national ID card into a universal transportation license?
This could be a single card that serves both as a driver’s license and metro card, usable on any region’s mass transit system. You could load money onto your transportation card just like you do now on your Metro Card, Charlie Card, or Clipper Card. This card would have a real functional benefit, eliminating the status quo where each transit system has its own fare card. It could universalize the nation’s metro transit networks.
Imagine a single card providing access to all modes of transportation, all across the country. Suburban and rural youth would still cherish the freedom of the driver’s license, while their counterparts in more urbanized areas would grow up using the same card on the bus and subway, to get to school or visit friends. Business and leisure travelers could use the card on any transit route, anywhere they go.
The card would evolve to represent the true face of our nation’s transportation—not one dominated by the automobile, but one where people get around different places in different ways, all equally important to our civic and national identity. Now, when asked to show photo ID, we would no longer pull out a plastic symbol of car culture. Rather we would show an ID that is truly democratic, associated with freedom of mobility of all kinds, of all people, of all places, across this great, diverse nation of ours.