Push Button for Walk Signal

I've long suspected that those buttons on corners that you're supposed to push to get a walk signal are a bizarre hoax. Just a facade created by city governments to let us pedestrians feel like we possess some small measure of control. Now this article (NY Times, reg. req.) largely confirms my suspicion. The article only discusses New York City, but I think the situation is the same throughout most of the country.


Posted on Mon Mar 01, 2004


The walk signal pushbutton does nothing after the first push. It just sends a signal to the traffic controller to light up the walk signal some time during the intersection's cycles. Just as pushing an elevator button does not make it come faster; the command has already been sent to the mechanism to come to your floor. And, as Anon says above about "pedestrian crossing lights [changing] whether or not you pressed the button at road junctions", they always light up in New York City. Well, almost always,. There are pushbuttons near my house that give a "walk" command to signals which otherwise show a orange hand and sometimes a red zero.
Posted by some monkey  in  New York City  on  Sun May 06, 2012  at  11:48 AM
The push to walk buttons in the two cities I have lived simply make the next green light longer. This gives people walking more time to cross the street than the green light normally allows. Especially helpful to seniors, children, wheelchairs, etc. I have even timed some of the ones I used regularly to make sure they worked and they did.
Posted by Kiko Irvine  in  United States  on  Fri Jul 06, 2012  at  09:04 PM
In the 1960s, New York City first installed pedestrian push buttons at various signalized intersections throughout the five boroughs. At the time, most signalized intersections were semi-actuated. With that said, a pedestrian signal changed from "DONT WALK" to "WALK" only upon request. Pedestrian push buttons were okay for a while; however, traffic volume significantly increased in New York City by the 1970s. Pedestrian push buttons were inadequate, because they interrupted the flow of traffic. As a result, the city disconnected many pedestrian push buttons from useful service in the 1980s, and most signal controllers were converted from semi-actuated to pre-timed (as most are today in New York City). A pre-timed signal controller normally follows one time plan for a signalized intersection it controls, while a semi-actuated signal controller has variable time plans (with the presence of a form of either vehicle or pedestrian detection). Despite the fact that most pedestrian push buttons in New York are inoperable as of present day, some are still functional in certain locations of New York City. I am aware of one that still works in Coney Island, Brooklyn. Now, why are inoperable pedestrian push buttons still intact in New York? Well, the reason is that they are quite costly to remove. The city would have to pay at least $400 for each removal. So, with that said, it is understandable that the city wants to save money.
Posted by Steven G.  in  Manahawkin, New Jersey  on  Thu Jan 31, 2013  at  11:17 PM
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