Google Transit Departures widget - get details of nearby public transport


These instructions describes how to install and use a widget that provides details oft public transport near you, with departure times and destinations. This widget will be of most use to iPhone users but will also work fully on an iPad that has GPS capabilities, that is a cellular iPad with a SIM slot. (A SIM need not be present for GPS to function on the iPad). These instructions are written for blind users who use VoiceOver to access their device. Sighted users should be able to follow these instructions with a little interpretation of the VoiceOver gestures. In particular VoiceOver users have to double tap buttons instead of the usual single tap. VoiceOver users also have to swipe with three fingers to scroll in place of the usual one finger scroll.

So, what, exactly, is a widget? A widget is a miniature version of an app that gives fast access to one or more of the features of the full app. The Google transit departures widget gives a list of imminent departures from your current location. I have found it particularly useful at or near bus stops; if I stand at a particular stop it usually tells me the next few buses at that stop with their number, destination and departure time. It also lists other nearby stops that I can examine. I tested this on streets with several closely packed bus stops and the stops were usually correctly identified. This widget is at its best when you just want to check what buses are due to turn up at an outdoor bus stop that you are standing by but it seems to work well in bus stations too. I've done only limited railway testing and would be interested to hear from rail users who have tested the widget more thoroughly. As with all mapping apps, it will make occasional mistakes and you must use your own judgement and not rely totally on the information provided by the widget.

On iPhones and iPads, widgets can be added to the Today View. The Today View can be accessed with a three finger swipe right from either the lock screen or the home screen; (that would be a one finger swipe right for non-VoiceOver users). In iOS and iPadOS 14 and later, some widgets can also be installed as large icons alongside app icons on the Home screen and other app screens, but the Google Public Transit Departures widget can be installed only on the Today screen.

VoiceOver glitches

Occasionally both widget and iOS updates can cause issues for VoiceOver users. Thus far, I've always found a simple workaround which often involves exploring the screen with a finger rather than locating an item by swiping right. I'll certainly spot issues in the widget itself since I use it frequently and I'll try to keep the webpage current. I am less likely to spot issues with installing the widget and you may need to discover your own workaround.

Installing the widget

First ensure that Google Maps is installed on your device and open it to go through its introductory screens. Next, go to the Home page and then swipe right with three fingers to access the Today View. Now swipe right to hear what is currently shown on your Today View. This will vary depending on what has already found its way here. Swipe right through these items or scroll up with three fingers if you have many items in the Today View. The final item in the Today View is an "edit, button". Double tap to activate the edit button. Occasionally, VoiceOver is unable to progress through everything in the today view by swiping right. If you don't reach the Edit button by swiping right, ensure that you are at the bottom of the page with 3 finger swipes up and then feel for the today button near the bottom centre of the screen.

The edit page will display any items that are already on the Today View. At top right of the screen there will be an "add widget, button". The final item on the screen will be a "customise, button". The "add widget, button" is for adding widgets that are designed to be used both in the Page View and on the Home screen. The "customise, button" is for all other items, including the Google Transit Departures widget.

Locate the "customise, button" and double tap. Swipe right and you will probably hear a list of widgets made available by several apps on your device. Swipe right until you hear "add Google Public Transit Departures, button" and double tap to add the widget. Locate the "Done, button" at top right and double tap to complete adding the widget. You will now have a Today View which includes the GoogleTransit Departures widget.

Finally, go Home to dismiss the Today View.

De-cluttering the Today page

If your Today View is cluttered with items you don't use, they can be removed or repositioned lower down the list. To do this, open the Today View and locate the "Edit, button" at the end of the Today View. Double tap to open the editor.

If you have some Home screen type widgets in your Today View these will appear above the Google Transit Departures widget. Slide a finger down along the left of the screen to find the first of these widgets. To delete a widget, swipe up until you hear "delete" and then double tap. To drag a widget to a new position swipe up with one finger until you hear "drag item". Double tap with one finger and leve your finger resting on the screen and now slide your finger around to reposition the item. You can't position Home screen type widgets below Today View widgets like Google Public Transit Departures.

If you want to delete or move Today View type icons, then you need first to locate and double tap the Edit button at the base of the Today View and then locate and double tap the "customise, button" at the base of the edit page. To remove a widget, locate it in the list and swipe up until you hear "delete" and then double tap. You can also add more widgets here if you wish and widgets that are added can be dragged by locating them and then using double tap and hold, followed by sliding up or down.

When you have finished adjusting the Today View type widgets locate the "Done, button" at top right and double tap.

Go Home to dismiss the Today View.

Using the Google Public Transit Departures widget

The Today View is opened by swiping right with three fingers from the home page or the lock screen. However, I find that the Today View doesn't always work correctly for VoiceOver users when reached from the lock screen so I strongly recommend unlocking the phone and swiping right with three fingers from the Home screen.

Now swipe right with one finger, repeat, and you should reach two buttons. The first is the "bus, button" and the second is the "train, button". Make sure that the one you want to use is selected by swiping to it and, if necessary, double tapping to select it. Let's assume you have selected the "bus, button". Continue swiping right and you will probably hear the name of the bus stop at which you are standing or your nearest bus stop if you're not actually standing at a stop. If VoiceOver doesn't reach this information with a swipe right slide a finger down from the top left of the screen to locate the first set of bus information. With a little practice, you should be able to locate the first stop in the list. If you don't land on the stop name and maybe land on the destination, swipe left to check that it's your stop. Swipe right and you will probably hear the destination of the next bus at that stop. Continue to swipe right and you will probably hear a bus name or number, its destination and how long you have to wait for the bus to depart. I think this is sometimes lyve information rather than schedule information but VoiceOver users will rarely be told if they are hearing lyve or scheduled information.. Keep swiping right and you'll hear more departures from that stop or perhaps the name of another nearby stop. If the name of the nearby stop is not followed by details of bus departures, swipe back left to the name of the bus stop and double tap to open the detail and then swipe right. Sometimes the name of a bus stop will be followed only by something like "Leicester plus 1 more". Double tap on "Leicester plus 1 more" to reveal the detail of departures. If you swipe back and double tap on the name of a stop for which detail has been revealed in the widget then you will be taken to the full Google Maps app with details of all departures from that stop and these usually include information such as lyve arrival times and whether or not the bus is crowded. It's difficult to explain how this works here; it's much easier to learn by experimenting with the widget and app. I suggest that you experiment with the widget while standing near a local bus stop and also at busy bus stops in town. Make sure you practice before you rely on the app and, of course, remember that there may be occasional errors, especially in bus stop names which are occasionally mis-labelled or not updated when the feature they are named after moves. One of my local bus stops is still labelled "registry office" even though the registry office moved years ago. With all its occasional flaws, I think this is a fantastic tool and well worth trying.

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