New Yorkers Keep Pushing Useless Traffic Light Buttons

from the even-dogs-learn... dept

Growing up in NY, I remember someone telling me very early on that the buttons on street corners to change lights didn't work. We used to call them "idiot buttons", because only idiots would bother to push them (and, indeed, we used to laugh at those who bothered). I was told (and believed) that they were only there to make people feel as if they had some control over the situation. Watching people press the buttons and seeing nothing happen supported this belief. However, since moving out of New York, I eventually learned that street crossing buttons elsewhere (such as here in California) do seem to work just fine. At this point, I'm so used to using them again that I'd pretty much forgotten the rumor that the ones in NY didn't work - and assumed that I'd been tricked as a kid. However, it turns out whoever told me that was completely right. The vast majority of street corner buttons don't work in New York. They're relics of a different age when they were more necessary. Most have been disconnected, but left in place because it would be too expensive to either connect them or remove them. And, still, the people push. Some are surprised that the buttons don't work, but many keep pushing, just out of habit. Of course, some of the buttons do work - so you get a casino-effect, where people will probably keep pushing on the off-chance that this time the button will work.

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  • identicon
    Geoff Jones, 27 Feb 2004 @ 3:44am

    Buttons

    Here in UK the buttons are connected but in the majority of cases have no effect as they only allow the user to cross in the normal traffic light sequence. i.e. They don't assign priority to the pedestrian.
    Now the old zebra crossings with Belisha beacons the pedestrian is king! The traffic HAS to stop and yep no technology involved.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Mindless Rabble, 27 Feb 2004 @ 4:50am

    Nothing in New York works

    Nothing else in New York works. Why would the light buttons?

    Something not working in New York, should never be generalized to the rest of the world.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Gread, 27 Feb 2004 @ 7:11am

    Buttons

    I'm not surprised. It's such a pavlovian condition.
    In Boston, it doesn't matter one way or the other. People tended to walk across the street, no matter what the color of the light is. I'm starting to wonder if the buttons work at all around here.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Norvell, 27 Feb 2004 @ 7:36am

      Re: Buttons

      I think in Boston the buttons often don't really cycle the light but merely cause the "walk" light to come on during the appropriate time. A result of this is that since most people don't bother to push the buttons (which are sometimes far away and we're not sure if they do anything anyway), we're walking against the "don't walk" light most of the time. As a result, we (jay)walk when we really shouldn't. People who prefer to wait for the walk sign but arrive too late to activate the walk light for that cycle get confused in large and complicated intersections and put themselves and others at risk because it seems like the light never comes.

      IMHO, there should be no buttons, pedestrians should get a walk light when it's time and shouldn't have to look at the auto signal, and drivers shouldn't have to look at the pedestrian signals. Intersections where the button really does cycle the light should be clearly marked as such with some feedback that your push actually did something.

      Any traffic engineers out there?

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    DV Henkel-Wallace, 27 Feb 2004 @ 11:05am

    Pressing the button is fun!

    Even when the button works, you need only press it once to activate it. But I like to press it from time to time as I wait...it gives me something to do!

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Bastard Sammy, 1 Mar 2004 @ 8:10am

    No Subject Given

    Here in Indy, you don't get a crossing signal at all if you don't push the button. Although, I seem to remember the buttons in Muncey NY, worked almost on command. But that was 20 years ago. Don't know what they would be like now.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Ajlouny, 4 Aug 2009 @ 6:29pm

    Pushing Buttons

    I have often wondered if those buttons work. To me it seems not.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]


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