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Press Release

Anne Watzman
Carnegie Mellon University

Bob Grove
Port Authority Transit

For immediate release:
March 7, 2005

Port Authority To Introduce Carnegie Mellon Voice-Activated Dialogue System To Make Scheduling Information More Accessible

Maxine Eskenazi and Alan Black received a $650,000, three-year grant from the National Science Foundation's Universal Access Program to fund the "Let's Go" project with the Port Authority.

PITTSBURGH—Port Authority of Allegheny County has introduced a voice-activated, spoken dialogue system, developed by Carnegie Mellon University language technology experts with funding from the National Science Foundation (NSF), designed to make bus-scheduling information more accessible to elderly riders.

Initially, the automated system will offer information through March 20 on 10 bus routes operating in the East End section of Pittsburgh during times when Port Authority customer service representatives are not available to answer telephones. It will operate from 7-11 p.m. weekdays and 6-11 p.m. Saturdays and Sundays.

Information will be available for the 28X Airport Flyer, 54C North Side-Oakland-South Side-Strip District, 56U Oakland-Greenfield, 59U Oakland-Waterfront-Century III, 61A East Pittsburgh-Wilkinsburg, 61B Braddock-Swissvale, 61C McKeesport-Homestead, 64A East Liberty-Homestead-Waterfront, 69A Forbes and 501 Manchester-Wilkinsburg routes.

Users can access the system by dialing 412-442-2000.

"This system is specifically designed to give scheduling information for bus routes in the City's East End," explained principal investigator Maxine Eskenazi, associate teaching professor in the Language Technologies Institute (LTI) in Carnegie Mellon's School of Computer Science. "It's for all Pittsburghers, but we've really tried to make it easier to use and understand by the elderly. It will be especially useful to people with sight impairments who have no way of accessing bus scheduling information in the evening," she added.

Eskenazi and LTI Research Scientist Alan Black received a $650,000, three-year grant from the National Science Foundation's Universal Access Program in 2002 to fund the "Let's Go" project to study the use of phone dialogue systems by elderly and non-native speakers, and to work with the Port Authority of Allegheny County to make its phone-based information services more user friendly to these groups of people.

They have been working with co-principal investigator Lorraine Levin, associate research professor in the Language Technologies Institute, and LTI graduate students Antoine Raux and Brian Langner.

"We are pleased to partner with Carnegie Mellon University and excited about the potential for this project to increase our customers' accessibility to information that helps them make transportation decisions," said Maureen Bertocci, Port Authority chief technology officer.

Maxine Eskenazi can be reached at 412-370-8905.


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