8 October 2007 at 9:10:36 AM
So there you were, driving down I-35. Little did you know that a camera was tracking your movements (was it the Yellow Nazi-Cams? Hey, is THAT what those are really for?), ready to randomly select your license plate from a bucket so that TxDOT could send you a survey to ask you VHERE VERE YOU GOING? You Must Tell Us. Paul Perry in the Waxahachie Light.
In my mailbox, the state government provided the material for my column this week. It appears I was randomly selected to answer a survey for a company (Alliance Transportation Group Inc.) contracted with our tax dollars through the Texas Department of Transportation.
The second paragraph in the preface of the survey gives the reason for my selection for this unpaid government service:...“Why did I receive this survey? You are being asked to participate in these efforts because the license plate of a vehicle registered in your name was randomly recorded while traveling southbound on Interstate 35, north of Waco, at some time within the last two (2) weeks.”
Gee, it is nice to know my travels are being monitored, by camera, evidently.
Yes. Here's more on YOU BEING RECORDED WHILE YOU DRIVE. Cameras on I-35 part of TxDOT project (Watch for the bright orange barrels), according to KEYTV.
If you drive on Interstate 35 near the Westinghouse overpass in Round Rock, you may not know it, but your license plate is being recorded by video cameras.
Some drivers fear it's to catch speeders.
But an investigation by CBS 42 News discovered it's a TXDoT project by the Texas Turnpike Authority.
Within minutes a woman showed up and said it is a data collection project to determine traffic flow.
"It's a confidential project," said Debra Watson, Zone Manager with Alliance Transportation. "That's all I can tell you"
Since state projects are public record, the investigation continued.
The Texas Department of Transportation's media representatives said they didn't know anything about the contract, but they would try to find out information for us to explain exactly what these cameras are doing set up on Interstate 35.
Then another man arrived and said his employee was misinformed about the confidentiality.
"The only thing we have here that's confidential is our technology," said Mike Heath, president of Alliance.
Heath says his company is simply recording traffic information to assist with transportation planning -- not traffic enforcement.
"As a matter of fact, any information that is collected is kept confidential," he said.
By phone TXDoT officials explained they're monitoring traffic from San Antonio all the way to Dallas with the cameras. And if your license plate shows up more than once, you will be hearing from them in the mail -- not because you've done anything wrong they insist, but because they want you to fill out a brief survey.
Um. I don't care if they would keep the data confidential. It's NONE OF THEIR BUSINESS and one would want to PURGE that information out of the PRIVATE company database, yes????
And oh, the questions asked. How many people were in your car? How many people live in your household?
In all seriousness, the questions asked in the survey are overly nosy. They are not necessary if the state is just trying to judge road use. While I can understand the need for the state to count traffic - and they have done that for years using automated methods - there is no reason for the state to know the reasons for my travel. If you read the questions I quoted above, you can see that they are asking that question indirectly.
The information they are seeking is more closely akin to a marketing survey. I suspect that is exactly what it is. The state legislature has slowed TxDOT’s grand scheme to implement the Trans-Texas Corridor. Now TxDOT is countering the legislature with a $9 million advertising campaign funded by your tax dollars that I have discussed in another column.
The goal of that advertising campaign is to promote the need for the Trans-Texas Corridor. The information requested in the targeted survey sent to my house would be extremely valuable in that advertising/propaganda campaign.
There was a time when Texas was known for its system of highways, and it was the envy of many other states. The great majority of these roads were toll free. Perhaps if TxDOT would quit wasting its time and taxpayers’ money on prying surveys and camera surveillance of mostly law abiding motorists/taxpayers, Texas roadways could once again be the envy of other states.
One more thing from Perry's article. The group that did the survey, Alliance Transportation, Inc, refused to tell him who owns the company. Perry wonders if any members of the Texas government or families are involved.
The website's administrative contact is James Heath, at 100 E Anderson Lane, Suite 300 Austin, TX. I notice that the group seems to be "Alliance Transportation" with Mike Heath as president, same address (maybe a brother? Or maybe it's one guy whose name is James Michael Heath). And apparently one of their wives is the CEO, Gayle Heath. Same company also has an office in Louisianna, J D Allen is VP.
Anyway, apparently TxDOT is contracting out with this private company to do marketing surveys for them. But just because they SPY ON YOU WHILE YOU DRIVE doesn't mean you have to answer the survey. And, were it me, I'd call them up and demand that they take your info out of their database because you didn't permit a private corp to collect it. (One wonders when people will begin taking to court these agencies that invade privacy).
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