This appeared in the The Globe and Mail a little while ago:
It’s a ritual. You walk up to an intersection, press the little pedestrian button that is supposed to change the traffic lights for you, and nothing happens for a long, long time. In this computer-controlled age, you are merely letting the traffic light know you are there. It won’t do anything until its next natural cycle.
And sometimes it won’t do anything at all. New York City’s Department of Transportation acknowledge the other day that 80 per cent of the 3,250 buttons in New York were deactivated long ago, even though the official signs telling pedestrians to push the button to cross the street remain in place. They encourage pressing engagement even as they cause people to miss pressing engagements.
Still, it’s not worth hitting the panic button. That’s probably a sham, too.