Thursday, April 30, 2009

Do crosswalk buttons really work?

Seriously, I've been wondering for years if these things are decorative. Whether I push it or not seems to make no difference. Maybe they're put there to make us feel we have control when really it's all up to the computer algorithm or the timer to tell us when we can "Walk" or worse when it tells us "Don't Walk."
Twitter: @exbor
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  1. My suspicion is that some are just decorative, but I know there are some that actually are connected, like the one at Punchbowl and King, if you don't push the button the light skips the crossing light, and lets the left turn lane go at the same time as those going straight (Heading Makai). However, I have experienced those light where the button makes no difference.

  2. My friend's dad is an engineer that designed those things and he claims that yes, they actually do work.

    I think what's probably going on is that the buttons probably work differently at different stop signs, which is why they sometimes appear not to work. Like Kenton says, I have definitely experienced stops where they change the flow of traffic like that based on whether or not the button gets pressed.

    Other times, it seems to make no difference at all. I have also noticed a traffic light near my apartment operates differently based on time of day (rush hour or not) so that might add to the plethora of variables affecting when you'll finally get to cross that damned street already.

  3. I have to agree with Kenton and for the most part in Downtown they don't work.

  4. Kenton and Marissa: That's what I thought. I'm glad to hear I wasn't the only one who felt that way. Maybe they're thinking they'll get us to think one of them must work, so we'll assume they all do.

    Sandra: Thanks for stopping by and the comment. I like your explanation, too. And I think it may be correct. As new lights are installed, it's likely they upgrade them to behave differently.

  5. Well, this paper ( from Eytan Adar cites a Feb 27, 2004 NYT article that found 2500 out of 3250 crosswalk buttons in New York City don't actually work.

  6. Then there is proof! It wasn't just me and my wild ideas.