Rep. Mica wants new transponder system to help speed up driving commute times


ORLANDO, Fla. - Most people would love to cut down their commute time, but what if it means a government agency collecting information about your travel patterns??

9 Investigates discovered an Orlando congressman wants to use E-Pass and SunPass transponders to get drivers home faster.

It's working in New York City, but that same technology could be used to track your every move, so Channel 9 traveled to the Big Apple to find out how it works and asked lawmakers how they'll protect your privacy.

Anyone who commutes on State Road 50 in the morning knows it's stressful.

Allen West said the drive puts him in a bad mood.

"It's a nightmare. It's the one place I would rather not be in the mornings," he said.

In Orlando, traffic lights are controlled by the time of day. But in New York City, toll transponders are tracking traffic and keeping drivers moving.

Engineers use data from toll transponders to monitor traffic patterns and adjust the timing of the lights.

In Manhattan, data from tag readers and motion sensors has cut down the amount of time commuters spend on the road by 10 percent.

Here's another way to look at it: That's a time savings of two minutes per mile, and for anyone anxious to get home from work, even a few minutes makes a big difference.

"We can implement this system," said U.S. Rep. John Mica R-Winter Park.

Mica wants to bring the technology to central Florida's busiest roads, including SR-50, Sand Lake Road and SR-436, but not everyone likes the idea.

"You purchase a SunPass you don't expect to be monitored at all times on where you are at. There's no telling what they can do with that data or share that data," said driver Sean Vankleeck.

Officials with the New York City Department of Transportation told 9 Investigates their system scrambles transponder ID numbers and they can't even tell who owns the car.

"We don't want to have any privacy concerns," said Mohamad Talas, who works for the NYCDOT.

Mica told 9 Investigates he would also take steps to protect drivers' privacy.

"We could easily institute protections that would make people feel their rights are protected," said Mica.

Driver Allen West said he isn't concerned about privacy if transponders can get him home faster. He said he's all for it.

"It would allow me to get home faster and spend more time with my daughter," he said. "Certainly increases the quality of life."

Mica said he supports legislation that would prevent the government from tracking and storing the data. He would like to use federal and state money to bring the technology to central Florida.

But it's a complex process. Mica would first have to make sure local leaders support the idea then secure funding. He said it could take a few years to get everything in place.