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A "Key to the City" Universal Card System for Visitors to Pittsburgh

Lower mass transit barriers for visitors and provide them with tourism opportunities so they can spend more time experiencing our city.

Photo of Meg Richards
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Pittsburgh is an exciting city full of unique cultural, sports, and dining experiences as well as world-class companies and universities. However, visitors not familiar with the area often face barriers of transportation and lack of familiarity with the area that can limit their engagement in the unique opportunities Pittsburgh has to offer. We propose creating a universal RFID-based card system (a “key to the city”) that provides visitors with access to mass transportation and curated dining and cultural experiences as well as other opportunities that align with their interests and reasons for visiting.


Precedent for this model exists with Pittsburgh area universities: Student, staff, and faculty ID cards unlock museums, restaurants, and the public transportation system every day. These negotiated arrangements mutually benefit the users, venues, and Pittsburgh as a whole. 


Visitors to Pittsburgh of all ages who come for business, leisure, visiting local universities, job interviews, conferences, or other events. It takes a committed visitor to use a system designed for the ease of residents (e.g.: Going to a grocery store to purchase a ConnectCard) or using public transportation at all. Driving in Pittsburgh by the uninitiated is frustrating in general and difficult during periods of peak driving times. A “key to the city” card, offered to and made readily available to visitors, will encourage use of the public transportation system and provide a seamless Pittsburgh Experience.

Describe who will use your solution (1,000 characters)

For visitors to Pittsburgh’s area colleges and universities, the key to the city card would allow them to access and use public transportation as well as dining options on campus and nearby, and access to area events and attractions that would allow them to gain a greater understanding of what Pittsburgh has to offer. Business visitors could obtain a key to the city card that provides them discounted rates on hotels and dining establishments. Conference organizers could partner with the key to the city to create a themed card for conference goers that unlocks a curated set of experiences. Visitors with a primary interest in exploring Pittsburgh could select a key to the city card that matches their personal interests: Be it dining, nightlife, culture, history, or the outdoors, the key to the city will provide users with both access to Pittsburgh’s many public transportation options and discounted rates to some of the best experiences Pittsburgh has to offer!

Describe your solution's stage of development

  • Initial Design - you are still exploring the idea and have not tested it with users

Tell us about your team or organization (500 characters)

Meg Richards and Peter Friedman are two CMU graduates committed to making Pittsburgh an appealing place to live and work. Lorelei Hoover is a lifelong Pittsburgher and staff at CMU.

Size of your team or organization

  • 2-10

Funding Request

  • $50,000

Describe how you would pilot your idea (1000 characters)

We would want to partner with local businesses and area museums and restaurants to discuss the feasibility of offering discounted rates in exchange for promotion of their services through the key to the city card. We would also need to contact mass transportation options (Pittsburgh Port Authority, Uber, and bike/scooter rental services) to make a plan for how these services could be offered through the key to the city. A pilot period would roll the card out for business (conference) and university visitors as these numbers are more likely to be known in advance and we could partner with universities and conference organizations to promote the card. Depending on the card’s success, different curated options of the key to the city card could be rolled out and promoted for people visiting Pittsburgh for tourism.

Describe how you would measure the success of your pilot (1000 characters)

It would be important to track use of the card at partner businesses and mass transportation options. Additionally, surveys could be sent to card users to determine how well they feel the curated options available to them with the card met their needs/interests. We would also want to see whether partner businesses experienced more business as a result of card use.

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Photo of Pete Friedman
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Image of possible architecture
http://rfmedialab.net/system/images/BAhbBlsHOgZmSSItMjAxOC8xMC8xNS8xMV8zNl8xMV81ODJfS2V5VG9UaGVDaXR5LnBuZwY6BkVU/KeyToTheCity.png

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