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08 November 2010

I thought I had seen this before on the Blue - a heavily criticized blog called You're Not So Smart. Here's his take on it, with the same links.

Does NY even still have buttons on their signals? I don't remember ever pressing one last time I was there. I remember simply waiting in anticipation of the walk signal to flash (or for traffic to let up to possibly jaywalk across the intersection).

I know I've tested out the placebo button effect throughout L.A. and Pasadena, sometimes to be let down by not getting my walk signal.
posted by jabberjaw 08 November | 14:26
A lot of more modern traffic signals are managed so that, in peak traffic periods, the pedestrian signals are timed to ensure that the traffic flows as well as possible and, during quieter times, they only operate when the button is press, to ensure that cars aren't waiting for a pedestrian signal when there are no pedestrians.
posted by dg 08 November | 14:58
Office thermostats:

An office is cold. It will warm up equally whether you set the thermostat to 72 or 82. Heating systems are usually set to run or not run. They will warm a space up until the set point is reached, at which time it will turn off.

Setting the stat to 80 will not help it get to 72 faster. It will only waste energy and make it get too warm, once it reaches the desired set point.

You're welcome.
posted by danf 08 November | 15:03
(danf, that speech is very familiar to me from my dad...)

Pedestrian buttons: Some of them do work, some don't. On my way to work there is one that pretty certainly ignores me, and another that responds immediately. Thank goodness for that second one, which is on a crazy high-speed road right in front of the train station.
posted by Miko 08 November | 15:16
In the town where I live, there are many intersections where you have to push the pedestrian button to get a walk signal in certain directions. These are at intersections of a major street and a minor street, when crossing the major street.

The reason for them is that the minimum green interval for the minor street is too short to safely walk across the major street. Pressing the button extends the green interval so you have long enough to cross, and displays a pedestrian walk signal. People often do not press the button, cross on the red pedestrian signal anyway, and then get surprised when the light changes before they're even halfway across.

But in any direction where the minimum green time is already long enough to cross, the buttons don't do anything. I spoke to a traffic engineer with the town once about that, specifically, why are the buttons there if they have no effect? He said the official reason is so they are free to alter signal timings to have a shorter minimum green interval without having to come back and install a button--the button is there and wired up and can be made to work any time.

And he said the unofficial reason is that they get lots of phone calls complaining about the lack of a button whenever it is omitted, so installing one that is ignored by the signal system cuts down on complaints. Since handling those complaints costs money too, somebody worked out it's cheaper to just install the buttons everywhere when installing the signals.
posted by FishBike 08 November | 15:45
danf, are you channeling me? People need to learn some patience - set the bloody thing tot he temperature you want, then leave it alone! It doesn't warm up/cool down any faster if you set the temperature to max/min!

Heh, I just checked the thermostat in my hotel room and it's set for 5c. They're everywhere!

FishBike, I've heard similar - the buttons are there so that people don't panic that they won't be able to cross - having a button to push gives them comfort that the lights will change at some point.

Also, pushing the button once is sufficient - pushing it multiple times doesn't make the light change faster. Also, only one person needs to push it - not everyone who wants to cross has to push the button so, if you saw someone else do so, you don't need to do it again!
posted by dg 08 November | 16:40
Heh, I just checked the thermostat in my hotel room and it's set for 5c. They're everywhere!


No, no, that was me. I *wanted* the temperature in the hotel room to be 5C. Delicious.

(Um, no, I haven't actually stayed where a hotel thermostat would be measured in C. But you're welcome to assume that I or a galadriel-clone was the most recent person in the room before you, any time you run into this issue.)
posted by galadriel 08 November | 16:59
the minimum green interval for the minor street is too short to safely walk across the major street. Pressing the button extends the green interval so you have long enough to cross, and displays a pedestrian walk signal. People often do not press the button, cross on the red pedestrian signal anyway, and then get surprised when the light changes before they're even halfway across.

this is extremely common here in Boulder/Denver as well.

Streets that use timing rather than ped access signals don't have a ped button of any sort.

Streets that have high peak flow do disable the ped signal buttons during peak times, and there's a little sign that says as much on the crosswalk.

Our ped buttons don't so much "press" as "chirp" (and flash a set of LEDs to indicate the signal's been tripped) when you pass your palm over them. They're touch sensitive, not an actual spring loaded button.

The only fly in the ointment around here is when an emergency vehicle's RFID signal "trips" the intersection in mid-flight, and you lose your place. They've talked about installing some form of smart-grid technology to map the signals together to avoid such things, as well as addressing peak flow gridlock issues around central downtown as well.

Side note: within the past 5 years I've noticed that CDOT has significantly upped the gain on the magnetic loops (aka the signal "trip" sensors on the secondary roads) on a number of intersections hereabouts so as to enable bikes to activate them. You know which ones as they paint a little bicycle in a box right over the loop. To activate it, you simply position your bike in the box to "trip" the loop - and with all my non-ferrous bikes I was suspicious that there wouldn't be enough magnetic material available in them to disrupt the magnetic loop, however the loop is now sensitive enough that simply making sure the drivetrain (steel chain/chainrings) is directly over it usually works. And if not, there's always the ped button...

Why yes, since you ask, I do indeed have an acquaintance (teammate actually) who is a civil engineer at CDOT.

As far as temps go, the thermostat in my office actually *does* work, however as it controls a zone containing my office, Boss' office, and the community relations directors' office, I tend to grin and bear it, for values of "it" meaning "my discomfort owing to the office temperature". The guys from Maintenance come by our area on a regular basis with their little testers to determine that the HVAC is maintaining a steady 71F anyhow. This likely is merely a side effect of my having my office in the site president's wing, but if so, who am I to complain?

What I would like to have gone (and it sounds like they're removing them shortly owing to safety issues) are those idiotic jaywalker-enabling mid-block flashing crosswalks that disrupt the main drag along campus. During class breaks in school season, you can actually be stuck in your car or on your bike waiting for uninterrupted herds of students to cross a busy, 4-lane highway for unbelievable lengths of time. I've been stuck at the main Broadway crosswalk for the entire length of a class break (five minutes? probably) It's also not uncommon for the students to be texting, reading, and/or merely obliviously strolling along when they smack the crosswalk button as they are stepping off the curb into traffic and somehow they expect all existing traffic to automagically vanish / stop as they stroll into the lane. Not to mention the most irritating part: these things are largely pointless anyway, because in each case, there exists, a mere half a block away from the flashing crosswalks in either direction, a legitimate surface crosswalk at the next intersection. Not to mention a wealth of pedestrian bridges and underpasses which offer unimpeded access to campus without even having to wait for the light to change.

mumblemumble goddamn kids...grumble...frickin lawn... whyIoughtta...
posted by lonefrontranger 08 November | 17:27
Similar to installing cross-walk buttons that do nothing to halt the letters of concern, the thermostats are installed to give office workers a sense that they can control their environment, just to reduce the number of complaints.

As for those darned kids: I used to remind students that cars are larger than they are by stopping at the last moment possible for kids who wouldn't look. I'd get angry looks, people stepping back on the curb, and a few people who wouldn't notice anything. People riding with me would often say "you almost hit them!" to which I'd reply "But I didn't, and they learned a lesson." I can stop more quickly that the city buses that also drive through the campus, who are usually pretty cautious, but there are some really oblivious kids.
posted by filthy light thief 08 November | 18:41
When we were in Baltimore, there were crosswalk buttons all over the place. We don't have to press them in Chicago, so we started off not pressing them in Baltimore. But then the walk signal would never come. So we pressed them. And sometimes the signal would come and sometimes it wouldn't. We eventually gave up and jaywalked.

Also, while walking around Pittsburgh at night, we noticed that all of the crossing signals talk and chirp and ring. Constantly. CHIRP CHIRP It is now safe to cro4d9019b9bfcdb7de98b6c:Trojan.SdBot-4926 82432:5b49a55278cc44654e16cf0983b2badb:Trojan.SdBot-4929 379430:6a8015b28a5aa4875a9a89c86355db20:Trojan.Hupigon-1665 280576:305f29e7ece81007df168968e4b94a
posted by youngergirl44 08 November | 19:36
oops. If images are off, picture is a link.
posted by Kronos_to_Earth 08 November | 22:08
box || Eyeliner bunny! OMG!

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