Automated Phone Line Has Served More Than 200,000 Callers Since 2005
PITTSBURGH—“Let’s Go,” Carnegie Mellon University’s innovative automated phone line that has provided after-hours transit information to riders of the Port Authority of Allegheny County since 2005, is expanding to a 24-hour service available at 412-268-3526.
Beginning next week, the Port Authority will route after-hours calls to its own automated information line. But as an independent service, Let’s Go will offer riders an alternative, giving them options that wouldn’t be available otherwise, said Maxine Eskenazi , principal systems scientist at CMU’s Language Technologies Institute  (LTI).
“Let’s Go provides more than just information about when the next bus will arrive at a stop,” Eskenazi said. “We also provide scheduling information for all future rides. We can tell if the next bus is full and we can tell if a bus line is re-routed because of parades, snow or other conditions.”
LTI Professor Alan Black  noted that the automated system has been customized for the peculiarities of the Allegheny County transit system, such as bus stops that are known by different names on different bus routes.
To date, Let’s Go has handled more than 200,000 calls from riders in the evenings and weekends, with an estimated 90 percent success rate, Eskenazi said. Despite a proliferation of online sources and smartphone apps for transit, phone information services remain a critical resource, particularly for low-income riders.
Let’s Go has also been an important tool for research into spoken dialogue systems. Developed with support from the National Science Foundation, Let’s Go has generated more than 250 scientific publications, been a key part of 22 doctoral theses and has been a platform for research challenges.
“We have had people from all over the world run experiments on Let’s Go,” Eskenazi said. “This has affected scientific research on spoken dialogue systems in an important way.”
“If we can maintain a community of users, that will be good for both riders and researchers,” Black said. “But first we need people to jot down our number, 412-268-3526.”
LTI is part of Carnegie Mellon’s top-ranked  School of Computer Science, which is celebrating its 25th year. Follow the school on Twitter @SCSatCMU.
Byron Spice | 412-268-9068 | bspice [atsymbol] cs.cmu.edu