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Road works

What is more expensive: Paying two guys minimum salary to stand at each end of the roadwork area and coordinate alternating two-way traffic over one open lane, or put two electric generators with portable traffic lights in each position instead?

I don’t know the answer, but the “people” solution definitely reduces unemployment.

This is one of the stray “hey, they do it differently in England” observations that pop into our heads with regularity nowadays. In England, where road construction is ubiquitous, you practically never see one-lane traffic management in the hands of people. Not all European countries uniformly do likewise, but we retained a general impression of those portable traffic lights being everywhere where half a road is closed.

Now in New Jersey, Natasha is approaching a stretch of the county road with some sort of digging going on, and here he is, the hard-working stop-sign holder, intently listening to his walkie-talkie for the roger to let the queue of cars through.

Gotta be the cheaper option.


  1. Nathan

    I’ve never thought about the price difference between live flagmen (flagpersons?) and automated lights, but I can tell you with a degree of certainty that it’s not going to change over from the current system because unions aren’t going to give up two job slots on every project.

    If pressure ever does mount enough for them to give it up, they’ll demand that the control be manually operated by one guy (thus giving up only one job slot).

    If you need an example, at the railroad industry that still has “brakemen” on trains. Once upon a time, this guy had to actually go to one side of each car and turn a wheel to set the brakes. Now, the engineer moves a joystick. I have no idea what the brakeman does now.

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