Why Doesn't the "Walk" Button Work at the Crosswalk?

Many pedestrians have wondered, "Does the walk button at the crosswalk actually work?" In New York City, the answer is no. Traffic lights in the Big Apple are controlled by computer, so even though the walk buttons are still found on crossing posts, they don't work. No matter how many times a pedestrian may anxiously press "Walk," the buttons are not connected to the traffic light system.

Some of the walk buttons in Los Angeles still work, as do buttons in many other cities. It all depends on the city itself and the amount of traffic in any given intersection. The Portland, Oregon, traffic signal manager says most of the walk buttons in that city do work, but like everything else, it's a balancing act to make sure traffic isn't held up for one person crossing the street. Also, some buttons only work at particular times of the day, usually during off-peak traffic periods. The upshot is, if a pedestrian wants to cross a busy street, he or she can always try pushing the walk button. It may not work, but at least the person at the crosswalk feels a little more empowered.

Some of the busiest intersections in the world:

  • Shibuya Crossing in Tokyo, Japan. This intersection has good traffic signals, but the volume of people makes it chaotic. Thousands of people will cross the intersection at one time, numerous times each day.

  • Meskel Square in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia. This terrifying intersection -- with no traffic controls -- chalked up over 200 major accidents between 2004 and 2006.

  • Arc d'Triomphe de l'√Čtoile roundabout in Paris, France. This mass of confusion has thousands of drivers meeting at an intersection from several different routes, and they're all going in opposite directions. Traffic control is minimal, making for a hazardous, nerve-wracking experience.

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More Info: The New York Times

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I worked in a large aircraft plant where there were many dummy thermostats in the office areas. This gave the people who were always uncomfortable with the temperature something to twiddle with instead of phoning it in.

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