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Saturday, April 13, 2024

UF student creates independent RTS app

Student hopes it will be easier to use than the city’s app

For UF students who use the city’s public transportation, the GNV RideRTS app is more frustrating than it is useful.

Jonathan Wukitsch, a 19-year-old UF computer science sophomore, used the city’s GNV RideRTS app every day for a year to get to campus. He decided Gainesville commuters needed an upgrade after he experienced regular glitches. 

Wukitsch believes the app is unintuitive, he said.

“There are so many taps required to do things,” he said. “The user experience was not ideal to me.”

Wukitsch’s solution was creating NaviGator, an app that streamlines the RTS mobile experience. 

The development process for NaviGator began in May.

“Before I started writing any code, I drew it all out,” Wukitsch said. “I wanted it to feel like a native iPhone app.”

He designed the app to prioritize efficiency and utility, he said.

NaviGator addresses many of the technical issues of the GNV RideRTS app, adding several new features, including an option to favorite bus routes and receive notifications for arrivals at specific stops.

A few of Wukitsch’s friends tested the app before he released NaviGator to the public.

Isaac Kauget, a 21-year-old UF business administration junior, who met Wukitsch working at the UFIT help desk.

“I was able to point out a few bugs as well as help Jonathan with some basic design questions,,” Kauget said. “He was able to produce an incredible final product.”

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NaviGator was not the first time Wukitsch set out to improve a pre-existing app.

Wukitsch began his coding career by recreating Candy Crush and Flappy Bird in elementary school. He continued to hone his craft in high school by launching FastTrack, an app that allows Lee County School District students to check their grades. 

“It’s still used by thousands of students across the district today,” Wukitsch said.

Wukitsch was not alone in his belief that the GNV RideRTS app needed improvement.

Andrew Penton, a UF alumnus who graduated in May, had technical issues while using the GNV RideRTS. 

“I would open the app to see no buses at all, even though they’re still scheduled to be running at that time,” he said.

Penton often relied on friends to give him rides when he should’ve been able to rely on buses, he said.

“It is really a step up to get notifications when the bus is coming, as well as being able to see all my favorite stops at a glance,” Richardson said. “Jonathan did a really great job.”

NaviGator didn’t address all of the problems with the GNV RideRTS app, Wukitsch said. NaviGator relies on data provided by RTS, which is prone to outages. 

“Some people are not the happiest with that because sometimes it is a little dodgy or unreliable,” Wukitsch said. “ Unfortunately, there’s nothing I can do short of putting trackers on their buses. It’s ultimately just a better way to access the data that’s already there.”

NaviGator is currently exclusive to iOS platforms, but Wukitsch is open to developing an Android version if demand is high enough.

“I don’t have nearly as much experience in Android development as I do in iOS,” Wukitsch said. “But I think I could figure it out.”

Wuksitsch hopes the app becomes a staple in the lives of UF students.

“I just hope that I can get as many people on board so I can get as much feedback as possible,” he said. “I hope it's the one-stop shop for making sure that you're catching the bus on time.”

Contact Garrett at Follow him on Twitter @garrettshanley. 

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Garrett Shanley

Garrett Shanley is a third-year journalism and history major and The Alligator's Fall 2023 university administration reporter. In his free time, Garrett can be found watching Wong Kar-Wai movies and brooding.

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