First world problem.

A particular railroad crossing is the bane of my drive home. There are ways around it, but it happens to be on my fastest route home, hence the temptation to roll the dice and cut down McDuff to get to I-10, then head to 95 to get home. If the train’s not there, there’s no problem. If I can tell early enough that the train is there, either via visual cue or hearing the choo-choo, there’s no problem because I can head further east on Beaver and get directly on 95 without stopping at any tracks. But on occasion, I’ll get stuck at the tracks. And then the game begins.

What will save the most time? If the train’s obviously a short one, it’s a non-issue, you just wait. But if it’s long enough that you can’t see the caboose, then do you (A) assume it’s just long enough that you can’t see the caboose and wait for the train to pass, or (B) assume it’s going to be a while, make a U-turn, head east on Beaver, and get directly on 95?

Most times I make the right guess, and I save as much time as possible. But sometimes I pick (A) and it turns out to be a really long train, and sometimes I pick (B) and make that U-turn just as the gate starts going up.

It would be nice to know exactly how long the train is. More specifically, it would be nice if there were a large countdown display at the crossing, indicating/estimating how much longer it’ll take the train to pass. Even better, the display could include the actual number of train cars left so you could get a sense of how long it’ll take to get to zero.

This’d help you shave seconds–maybe even minutes— off your drive home. And if you choose to stay at the light, you could entertain yourself by counting down the number of train cars left. If the train’s going at just the right speed, you could even make a sing-song out of the countdown. Kids would love it.

I see no possible drawbacks to my proposal and hereby demand that it be implemented immediately at taxpayer expense at all railroad crossings in the whole entire country.

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