Are Boise's push-to-walk buttons a lie?

After what my friend and I experienced, or really, didn't experience, in downtown Boise, it sort of seems that way.

It was peak rush hour. Us two gals were standing on the corner of Broadway and University Drive by Albertsons Stadium waiting for our push of the push-to-walk button to kick in. It never did.

R.A. Valenzuela // Canva

[R.A. Valenzuela // Canva]

We're not geniuses, but we can push a button, y'all.


After two traffic light iterations, nothing had happened. Not that we're savants of any kind, but we're pretty sure we know how to push a button. Ask our husbands.

As our day hanging out in downtown Boise rolled on, we decided to see if any of the push-to-walk buttons we came across worked. Wouldn't you know, none of them did. Last we checked, the idea behind a push-to-walk button isn't rocket science.

We must've tested out at least 12 push-to-walk buttons between Albertsons Stadium and the Capitol Building, and none of them prompted the intersection lights to change any sooner.

R.A. Valenzuela // Canva

[R.A. Valenzuela // Canva]

Push-to-walk buttons aren't a lie, they're just not what they say they are. 

What? Confused and irritated, we Googled it. According to Bloomberg, pedestrian push-to-walk buttons in Boise and around the country are pointless.

Pushing the button doesn't cause a “WALK” signal to appear immediately. The system still needs to complete its cycle and allow cars enough time to get through the intersection. That could take anywhere from five seconds to two minutes, depending on the signal settings and the traffic.

In reality, the push-to-walk buttons are intended to work somewhere between five seconds to two minutes after they've been pushed.

Pushing the pedestrian button is beneficial when no vehicles are coming, as it registers to the traffic light that a pedestrian wants to cross, so it will change or hold a green light for the needed amount of time to walk across. Often the signal is “resting” on a green light for the major movement, and pushing the button makes sure it doesn’t change while a pedestrian is crossing.

-Scott Shea, CRS Engineers

Have you ever experienced a five-second push-to-walk turn-around? We haven't. If sounds like we were on a power trip, we weren't. We were just two Boise pedestrians, standing in front of a push-to-walk button hoping it would work before our clothes went out of style.

Good news: there's one thing the push-to-walk button does do.

The more a pedestrian pushes it, the more time it will give them to cross the street. You know, if they walk sign ever happens. Super.

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