Proposed City ID Could Increase Accessibility, Garner Discounts

Oct 1, 2015

A city-issued ID card would be cheaper for residents than one issued by the state Department of Motor Vehicles.
Credit Flickr user camera_obscura [busy]

Following in the footsteps of New Haven, Conn., San Francisco, and New York City, Pittsburgh Mayor Bill Peduto’s administration is floating a proposal to issue municipal identification cards to city residents.

Pittsburgh City Council on Wednesday gave preliminary approval to a bill allowing the city to use a $45,000 Hillman Foundation grant for an exploratory study of the proposal.

Betty Cruz, Manager of Special Initiatives in the Mayor’s office, said the ID card would be less expensive to issue than a state ID, which currently costs $28.50, and thus would be more accessible for those with limited resources.

Cruz added that the card could potentially be used for much more than just identification.

“The school district, the young folks have their IDs. Adults might have different IDs for their workplace or state ID or driver’s license, then you have a library card, you might have a Connect Card separate to that,” she said. “So how can we be more effective (in) increasing access for our residents to have a single ID?”

Cruz said the card could entitle residents to special discounts at private businesses, such as restaurants participating in the Live Well Allegheny program, an initiative of the Allegheny County Health Department. Additionally, residents could get free or discounted admission to museums and other cultural institutions.

Cruz said because one of the goals of the municipal ID card proposal is to increase access to photo IDs, residents wouldn’t necessarily have to come downtown to get one.

“Other cities have leveraged their library partnerships and the libraries have been the spaces where you go,” she said. “Citiparks has been in the table, so that our Citiparks recreation centers might serve as a natural hub for that.”

The city of New Haven, Conn. launched its Elm City Resident Card in 2007, and was the first city in the country to issue a municipal ID. The New York Times reported that the program was initially aimed at helping undocumented immigrants open bank accounts and gain access to city resources such as libraries and swimming pools.

But Cruz said that in New Haven and other cities, it soon became clear that many non-immigrant residents were interested in city-issued ID cards as well.

“Exploring Municipal IDs is something that was first brought to our attention during the build out of the Welcoming Pittsburgh plan,” she said, referring to the city’s program meant to make the immigrant experience easier. “What we are most excited about is the opportunity to unify all Pittsburghers with an ID that better connects them with local services and increases accessibility of public services, spaces, and cultural institutions.”

Cruz said the city will work with Shift Collaborative on the study, which is anticipated to take three to six months to complete.

Council will take a final vote on the bill to pay for the study with grant funding next week.