What REALLY happens when you hit those buttons at Seattle street corners?
What really occurs when you hit those buttons at Seattle street corners? Spencer Platt / Getty Images

This literally existential question has now been explored by The Seattle Times and the answer, dear philosophers and other pedestrians, is that it depends:

More than 30 intersections on Mercer Street — where crews installed new, adaptive traffic lights this spring — do not flash walk signs unless people call for them with the buttons.

Signals at Capitol Hill’s Broadway East and East Pike Street intersection, on the other hand, cycle automatically, even if no one pushes the button.

To put this another way: It doesn't much matter whether or not you push a walk button on Capitol Hill. You can bang on that thing, scream into the wind about how it never changes the way you want, but it won't alter what's already been set in motion. In South Lake Union, when you push the walk button, a computerized system that has pre-determined the relative import of humans on foot vs. humans in cars will take your order and put you in the electronic queue. If you are a human who is not presently attached to a machine, you will be waiting longer to get what you want. On trend, if not fair.