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Ask CityLab: Do ‘WALK’ Buttons Actually Do Anything?

Hurry up and wait.
relates to Ask CityLab: Do ‘WALK’ Buttons Actually Do Anything?
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Ask CityLab is where we answer thorny questions about urban life. Email your Q's to AskCityLab@CityLab.com.

It depends on where you are. At intersections with actuated signal controls, the button functions as a human detector, alerting the system to the presence of a pedestrian and requesting a “WALK” signal as soon as possible. In some cases, you may have to push the button to cross; otherwise, the system doesn’t know there’s a pedestrian waiting and will proceed through its cycles without ever displaying a “WALK” signal. In other cases, pushing the button simply reduces your wait time.