First of all, you can reach the system 24 hours a day by calling 412-268-3526. Please note that busy signals sometimes occur. Calling the main Port Authority phone number (412-442-2000) after hours will also transfer you to the system.
According to the system, only the following routes are available:
28X, 54C, 56U, 59U, 61A, 61B, 61C, 61D, 61F, 64A, 69A, 501 (which was eliminated last June)
I'm skeptical of that list, which is also given by the Port Authority when it refers you to the system. I have been able to get information on 71A, 71C, 71D, and the 500. I even received information about the 77F.
To try it out, give a call. It'll ask "What can I do for you?" Answer by saying where you are and where'd you like to go, or what bus you'd like to take. All of the following questions work:
- I'd like to go from Oakland to the Pittsburgh Zoo.
- I'd like to go from Oakland to the Airport.
- I'd like to go from Forbes and Morewood to Murray and Forward.
- When's the next 61C?
Sometimes you have to repeat yourself. Sometimes it even seems to get something right and then asks again. Some tips for avoiding this are to speak clearly and concisely. If you don't understand what it is saying, say "What?" and it will repeat itself more slowly. Say "Start A New Query" when it goes down the wrong path.
Another problem is that your origin and destination must be on one route. This means the system does not handle transfers. It also does not handle walking: a query for Fifth and Morewood to Squirrel Hill came up with no options. The correct answer would have been to walk one block on Morewood Avenue to Forbes Avenue, where the buses go to Squirrel Hill. So you have to have some knowledge of the system before calling, unlike Google Transit which figures out walking and transfers for you.
Even with its problems, the system is very useful, and a great number to put into your phone when Google Transit isn't handy. It's great to see the Port Authority use the talent of a local university to help their customers. Please note that the information is from schedules, and does not adjust for weather, traffic conditions or detours.
Another system also developed at CMU is MyCMUBus, which has a better number (1-866-MYCMUBUS) but only offers information for buses between Oakland, Carnegie Mellon University, and Squirrel Hill. It has limited use, but if you take a 61C between Oakland and Squirrel Hill you'll see it's a large constituent of riders.