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The elevator close button not doing anything is certainly true most places in the U.S. It isn't worth pushing the button. Go somewhere like Hong Kong, though, and when you hit the door close button the doors close right now. If someone is halfway through the door when you hit it, too bad - they get chopped in half. I love it.
Walk buttons are different. I can see not having them hooked up at busy intersections, especially at intersections where there are always (or nearly always) pedestrians waiting to cross. Where I live, the buttons absolutely work - the walk signal doesn't illuminate and the signal timings are different if you don't push the button. It is all about maximizing the flow of vehicular traffic while protecting pedestrians. Interesting that they leave the buttons there even when they don't do anything, but I seriously doubt there are many (if any) places where walk buttons were installed purely for the placebo effect.
Also - you call that an article? Worst. Submission. Ever.Here is a rule of thumb for article submitters: if you can repeat the entire 'article' in the summary, you chose a bad article. Try at least digging up some of the original sources to link to (like the Wall Street Journal article mentioned).