NYC transit gets tech infusion


How transit-based IDs open the door for digital citizenship programs

Because of the pandemic, cities have had to rethink operations. From transportation to infrastructure, digital services were implemented to decrease human contact to keep citizens safe and socially distant. In the transportation industry, for example, forward-thinking agencies started using contactless mobile ticketing systems, which open the door for expanded digital services.

A digital identity, whether it’s in a driver's license or metro ticket, replaces traditional handheld, material identification. Since 2014, digital ID services have been implemented in dozens of countries in Africa and Europe to make business transactions and government processes, including transportation, more efficient, borderless and seamless. In 2014, Estonia became the first country in the European Union to roll out e-residency programs, which allow Estonians to pay for parking, vote, fill prescriptions and more. Now, due to the rapid growth of the economy in recent years, Africa is set to become the international hub of e-services, allowing citizens access to government services online, which will reduce costs and speed the turnaround time of day-to-day transactions. Africa and Europe will not be the only adopters of digital ID programs. According to experts, the majority of U.S. government services will soon require authentication through digital identification providers.

As the U.S. gears up for implementing digital identities, public transit has already made great progress.

Since the beginning of the pandemic, account-based fare collection systems have become increasingly popular on public transit because they require less interaction between riders and staff, helping agencies comply with social distance regulations. These contactless systems require riders to create a digital profile they use to buy and redeem fares, but the systems can also be used as a kind of digital identification.

For innovative cities looking to become “smarter” by creating a digital ID program for residents, public transit is the place to start. With a solid base of existing local users willing to create digital profiles that allow them to access ride fares, cities can then expand the platform’s public services to provide library cards, tax information, community center schedules and vaccination center locations.

One of the key benefits is gaining data-driven insights into the public’s needs. A transportation-based digital ID program means transit agencies can access anonymized data on what residents do every day. As this data is analyzed, revealing what transit services people use and need most frequently, city officials will be able to better serve their population’s transportation needs.

Cities looking to tap into smart technology should start by launching account-based fare collection systems for public transportation. The technology is easy to adopt for multiple systems and can bring in a large number of users quickly.

By reshaping the digital tools of smart cities, beginning with transportation systems, the U.S. can create new ways for citizens to interact with the urban environment around them.

About the Author

Miroslav Katsarov is the CEO of Modeshift.


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