The Near Future Of Mobility

travel, cars

Aging and Driving-One Card


When Baby Boomers hear  “One Card,”  they are likely to think “plastic,” like  MasterCard, or Discovery.  But, a  different type of  “One Card” is on the horizon and it could help Baby Boomers age-in-place. Most of our transportation choices are made on “automatic,” and it is hard to change engrained behaviors like driving.  A transportation “One Card”  holds new possibities.

Currently, some enlightened cities, like Seattle, Washinton are rethinking how to make travel trips seamless and easier. They are using  “One Card” systems.   Seattle has pioneered a universal travel card, called the Orca, which is valid on  public transportation and ferry service.  This year, the Seattle City Council will explore whether Car Share services could be added to the Orca card.

As Baby Boomers age and need to cut back their driving, “One Card” programs, like the Orca, could be transformative.  Most of us, even if we lived in Seattle, would not  remember that the  Car-Share could be a viable alternative when we take a trip. Right now, few of us track our full mobility. We would be hard pressed at the end of the month to report how many miles we have driven, and how many trips we took, whether by car or on public transportation.

Now imagine a different scenario. At the end of the month, you received an Orca like transportation summary, a statement that resembled your gas or electric bill. It would detail the number of trips you made, and include some basic maps. If you drove a car, the transportation summary might highlight  hidden costs, like  insurance and depreciation.

But, the transportation statement would provide more than retroactive reporting. If you lived in Seattle, the statement would remind you that a new Car-Share service was beginning, and  designate the neighborhoods where you could access it. The “One Card” could also use an algorithm to suggest whether the Car Service suited your individual travel.  Using recent travel data, it could recommend  “optimal” and “complementary” modes.   Suggested  modes might range from public transportation, to ITN, to paratransit, to elder taxi vouchers. The “One Card” statement might include a coupon or code to t ry a new mode. These ideas just begin to list the possibilities.

To bring the idea full circle…. Aging Baby Boomers are unlikely to imagine that they could give up their car.  Many of them have been driving since age 16 and reached  a state of total car-dependence.  An Orca like “One Card” is a new means to create awareness and nudge travel behaviors for this aging population.  The first step is to produce useful information, similar to the monthly utility bill that shows month-to-month usage. Individual travel trips would be compared to travel patterns for the larger community. And, this of course, would help planners anticipate new service demand.

“One Card”  is a big step along the path to reduce car-dependence and enhance mobility options for an aging population.  It  may be the tool that ultimately  helps the multi- car Boomer household downsize, and transform from   “One Car” to “One Card.”


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