Do pedestrian push-to-walk buttons do anything? Here’s the answer


Spoiler: Incessant tapping won’t make a walk sign appear any faster.

Our safety relies on them. We tap without second thought. Yet to the average pedestrian crossing the street, exactly how push-to-walk buttons work remains a mystery.

Do they send a signal to the stoplight to turn green sooner? Or, is it just a placebo to make impatient pedestrians feel like they have some control while they wait?

Full disclosure: This question came from a Seattle Times staffer. But because everyone uses the buttons, we figured the answer was worth knowing.

First, types of pedestrian-crossing systems in Seattle vary by location.

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All include a network of underground wires that send signals between the sidewalk buttons to computers connected to traffic lights.

Here’s what’s key: Most walk signs in…



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