got-toilet-paper? There is a website for that!

The Pitt Smart Living team created a mobile-friendly web site to help Pittsburgh-area grocers figure out which times are best for visiting a store and what items are in-stock/out-of-stock during these challenging times. Our goal is to make everybody’s lives a bit easier during the pandemic and help flatten the curve of people visiting grocery stores.

The web site is immediately accessible at

No download or registration is required. It works on any mobile smartphone equipped with a web browser. It also works on laptops or desktop computers, although the location-based features will not be as accurate.

How it works

The got-toilet-paper? website works in two modes:

  • View existing data — shoppers can search for a particular store on a map centered in downtown Pittsburgh and then select the store of interest to see:
    • information about how busy the store typically is and how busy it currently is (using data provided by Google), and
    • information about essential items being in-stock/out-of-stock. We report when was the last time information was submitted and use data only from the last 3 days.
  • Contribute new data — shoppers can submit information about how crowded a store is and whether certain items are in-stock or out-of-stock. We only allow reports for up to 3 hours in the past.

The list of stores currently in the system is available at

Sample screenshots are shown below:


How to help

  1. Please use the got-toilet-paper? website the next time you go to a grocery store in the Pittsburgh area. Use it to view information and also contribute information for others to use!
  2. Please help promote the website through social media. Please tag us (@PittSmartLiving) on Twitter or Facebook.
  3. If you are a store manager, please contact us (got-toilet-paper AT to add authoritative information about your store and become a partner (especially as we are looking to extend its functionality). The service is free.
  4. If you are a journalist, please help us raise awareness of the got-toilet-paper? website. Feel free to reach out (got-toilet-paper AT if you need more information.

Who did this?

This app was put together in an agile way by the following members of the Pitt Smart Living team:

  • Programmer: Kristi Bushman
  • Faculty: Alex Labrinidis (main contact), Kostas Pelechrinis, Sera Linardi
  • Postdoc: Robizon Khubulashvili
  • PhD student: Mallory Avery

and is funded by the National Science Foundation and the University of Pittsburgh, through their support of the Pitt Smart Living project.

Grocery App Sign-up

In light of the COVID-19 pandemic, we are trying to help our community through an app that will allow people to find out and report on the availability of certain items at grocery stores and supermarkets.

The app is under rapid development; we expect to have it ready within a few days.

PittSmartLiving Demo at Smart Cities Connect Conference and Expo

Our project is participating in the NSF Smart and Connected Communities PI meeting and in the Smart Cities Connect Conference and Expo this week, in Denver, CO.

If you are attending, make sure to stop by our booth tomorrow for a demo:

Motivating Pro-Social Behavior

Would you take a later bus if a mobile app told you the next bus would be full and gave you $3 off coffee? The PittSmartLiving project ( is building infrastructure to make that a reality, by providing real-time information to commuters along with such incentives from nearby businesses. In addition to developing a holistic urban transportation system that balances utilization across both public transportation networks and local businesses, we plan to design and evaluate the market mechanism that integrates and aligns the incentives of various stakeholders, to motivate pro-social transportation behavior.

Booth #25, NSF, Smart and Connected Communities

Sera Linardi talk at CITRIS Research Exchange

Designing Microbehavioral Research for Practical Social Innovation (Wednesday, March 13, 2019)

#behavioral economics * #data systems * #transit choices


Sera Linardi
Associate Professor of Economics
Graduate School of Public and International Affairs (GSPIA), University of Pittsburgh

Watch the talk video

About the talk:

PittSmartLiving (PSL) is a $1.4M 3-year National Science Foundation project hosted in University of Pittsburgh to reduce public transit congestion by designing a market that connects rush hours travelers with time-sensitive local business discounts. This project is currently organized within three research labs: Data & Systems, Human Behavior, and Business Integration. In this talk, we will look at the research taking place in the PSL Human Behavior Laboratory, which uses economic theory, experiments, simulations, and interviews to build a social science framework for the larger interdisciplinary collaboration.

About the Speaker:

Sera Linardi is an Associate Professor at the Graduate School of Public and International Affairs (GSPIA) at the University of Pittsburgh, where she directs the PittSmartLiving Human Behavior Laboratory. She received her Ph.D. in Social Science at the California Institute of Technology after working as a computer scientist at Adobe Systems. She bridges academic research and practical challenges in public/social services provision, specifically around prosocial behavior, information aggregation, and behavior economics of the poor. Her research has been published in economics, management, and political science journals (Journal of Public Economics, Management Science, Games and Economic Behavior, British Journal of Political Science) and won the 2016 Midwest Political Science Association Best Paper in Comparative Politics Award. Her work is currently supported by the NSF and the Heinz Endowment.

About the Series:

Launched in 2008, the CITRIS Research Exchange delivers fresh perspectives on information technology and society from distinguished academic, industry, and civic leaders. Join us this spring to celebrate 10 years of innovative ideas and dialogue.

Learn more about CITRIS and the Banatao Institute at the University of California.

News Coverage for PittSmartLiving Project

Our project and, in particular, our PittSmartLiving display in the City-County Building has been featured in a great article about Digital Signage for Transport by Samsung. In the article, an expert panel discussed the biggest talking points for digital signage and transport industries, from user experience to return on investment (ROI).

In the article, Sandra Baer, President of Personal Cities said:

In terms of US cities, Seattle and Pittsburgh are great examples of digital signage for transport.

With Pittsburgh, I’m particularly excited by their collaboration with TransitScreen who offers real-time displays of transport information. The PittSmartLiving initiative utilizes TransitScreen’s data feeds to help residents and visitors navigate the city, even when they are not in a transport hub. For example, in the lobby of the City-County Building, light rail arrival times for the nearby Steel Plaza station (and much more) are publicly displayed.

Postdoc Position in Economics and Computer Science

The Graduate School of Public and International Affairs at the University of Pittsburgh has an opening for a 2-year post-doc position in Mechanism Design for Social Applications, with a possible extension to the third year. This position supports collaboration between GSPIA and the School of Computing and Information (SCI).

 The collaboration includes Pitt Smart Living, a project funded by a $1.4M National Science Foundation grant: ‘Building a Smart City Economy and Information Ecosystem to Motivate Prosocial Transportation Behavior’ (#1739413). The post-holder will play a significant role in building a marketplace around public transport, including designing time-sensitive coupons from local businesses to rebalance transit riders at rush hour.  Working with Profs Sera Linardi (experimental economics), Alexandros Labrinidis (data science), Yu-Ru Lin (computational social science), Adam Lee (data privacy) and with Prof Onur Kesten in an advisory role (Carnegie Mellon University, market design), the post holder will use theoretical modelling and lab and field experiments to:

  • investigate commuters’ response to uncertainty in travel time
  • model firms’ decision problem in offering coupons,
  • match commuters to coupons

The project aims to not only publish in academic journals but also create and deploy practical applications. Other projects may include mechanism design for social work.

Candidates should have a strong background in market design.  A background in transport economics is helpful but not necessary.  The candidate should be near completion of a PhD in microeconomics, computer science or similar fields. Review of applications will begin February 18, 2018, and will continue until the position is filled. Applications should include a curriculum vitae, copies of written work, and a motivation letter addressing candidate’s broader interest in social applications of mechanism design. Two letters of reference should be sent directly by the referees. Applications and request for further information can be sent by e-mail to: Prof. Sera Linardi (

Western PA Mobility Showcase

We are excited to be a part of the Western PA Mobility Showcase that the Department of Mobility and Infrastructure (DOMI) of the City of Pittsburgh is organizing.

The Showcase will be open to the public, free of charge, on Thursday, January 4, 2018, from 12 noon to 2pm and 5pm to 7pm at Alumni Hall at the University of Pittsburgh’s Alumni Hall (4227 Fifth Ave).

Be sure to stop by our booth, learn more about the project, and participate in our survey (to win an iPad)!

More information about the showcase at

Light Rail arrivals now showing in Pittsburgh City Hall

We are happy to report that the PittSmartLiving display at the lobby of the historic City-County Building now includes real-time information about light rail arrivals for the nearby Steel Plaza station. Many thanks to the Port Authority for making that data available and to TransitScreen for incorporating the data feed.

As always, the transportation data feed can be accessed at (even from your mobile phone).

Screenshot showing arrivals for the Blue line (Nov 27, 2017)

Additional information:

New PittSmartLiving display at Carnegie Library of Pittsburgh – Main

TransitScreen Display in the Lobby of the Carnegie Library of Pittsburgh – Main

We are very happy to announce that one more PittSmartLiving display went live recently, in the lobby of Carnegie Library of Pittsburgh – Main (in Oakland). The display provides location-specific real-time information about:

  • Port Authority bus arrivals
  • HealthyRide bicycle availability
  • Pitt Shuttle arrivals
  • Current Weather

This makes the Carnegie Library of Pittsburgh the 4th Public Library in the USA that has a TransitScreen installation. The screen can also be accessed online, at (even from your mobile phone).

This is the seventh display of the PittSmartLiving pilot project which aims to evaluate the benefits of making multimodal transportation information available in real-time to city-dwellers, through public displays and a mobile app (forthcoming).

If you have any feedback for this or any of the other PittSmartLiving displays, please contact us.

Multidisciplinary Team Receives National Science Foundation Funding to Improve Transit [Pittwire]

A multidisciplinary team of Pitt investigators has received a three-year, $1.44 million NSF grant to build and evaluate a marketplace and a mobile app for multimodal transportation. The marketplace will provide incentives such as discounts at nearby businesses to encourage riders to take a later bus if the next one is full.

The funding will enable the Pitt Smart Living Project to place additional multimodal, realtime transportation information screens around the city. A half-dozen screens are located in Oakland and Downtown in collaboration with TransitScreen, through seed funding from the University.

Read more: Pittwire Accolades article