Making a pedestrian signal button work

The in basket: “Settle something for me,” asks Sharell Lee. “We’ve all seen pedestrians banging away on

the WALK signal buttons trying to make them change faster. That’s a waste of time, isn’t it?  No matter how many times you push the button, the WALK signal goes according to preset timing. Am I right?”

The out basket: Yes and no. A pedestrian wastes his time pressing the button more than once, but that first press is often necessary to get the signal to allow time for the walker to cross.

Signal programmers use the pedestrian signals to tell them that the corridor’s signals are in coordination, during hours that they are coordinated. During those times, the pedestrian crossing lights will come on for a preset time whether someone has pushed the button or not.

At other times, the signals need someone to push the button to get a pedestrian crossing light.

“Much like an elevator, pushing the button repeatedly does not bring the signal change faster,” says Del Gann, head of Kitsap County’s signal shop.

I think those who push the pedestrian signal button several times do so more out of concern that not every push registers with the signal controller, rather than to make the light change faster.

The county has been addressing that worry by installing buttons that beep and flash when pushed, so the pedestrian knows the signal got the message. Del tells me “About 25 percent of (our) pedestrian push buttons are the style with a audible confirmation. When intersections are upgraded, the new audible confirmation buttons are installed.”

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