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Welcome to our next installment of Behind the Wheel, a series dedicated to telling the unique, individual stories of PSTA employees, volunteers, and riders. For this month’s entry, we sat down with four members of PSTA’s Transit Riders Advocacy Committee, also known as TRAC.


A huge thank you to Mark O’Hara, Kim Rankine, Jay James, and Sean Schrader for taking time out of their day to share their story and love for TRAC and PSTA!

What is TRAC?

The Transit Riders Advocacy Committee, commonly referred to as “TRAC,” is a committee comprised of volunteers who provide insight and recommendations to the PSTA Board of Directors and its committees on operational and service concerns. Each TRAC member must ride PSTA at least two times a week and represent the diverse and geographic distribution of citizens in Pinellas County. In return for their service on TRAC, members receive a monthly bus pass.


TRAC currently consists of 12 transit users with the following representation:


  • 9 county representatives:
    • 2 representatives from North County
    • 3 from Mid-County
    • 3 from South County
    • 1 from the beach communities
  • 1 PSTA Access user
  • 1 student
  • 1 professional in the field of engineering, architecture, planning, legal business, finance, environmental, or similar


The stated purpose of PSTA’s TRAC is to:


  1. Provide knowledge of the system rider experience and ideas to improve operations and efficiency.
  2. Engage with staff during the planning process to ensure that the rider’s perspective is the foundation of agency plans and service.
  3. Promote and aid staff in better dissemination of general PSTA information.
  4. Act as a rider focus group for PSTA proposals and projects.


Group of TRAC members in reflective vests at Park Street Terminal

TRAC Members touring the Park Street Terminal, which is soon to be renovated thanks to the RAISE grant.
Pictured left to right: Missy Nevitt, Edwin Klump, Cassandra Borchers (former Chief Development Officer), Bob Bolles (former TRAC member), Jay James, and Gloria Lepik-Corrigan.

In short, TRAC allows the individuals who use PSTA’s service each day to have a voice in the decisions made by PSTA and the agency’s Board of Directors. While TRAC members are not required to have in-depth knowledge of transit, you will soon hear that some TRAC members inevitably become “transit nerds” as they learn more about the inner workings of PSTA and speak with our many subject-matter experts on complex topics and issues.


Now that you understand what TRAC is and the role the committee serves, let’s hear from four of our TRAC members. Each committee member was asked a few questions:


  • When did you start using PSTA’s services?
  • How did you first learn about TRAC, and what made you want to become a committee member?
  • What does TRAC mean to you, and why is it so important?
  • What’s your favorite part of being on TRAC?
  • Who should join TRAC, and why should they join?

Mark O’Hara

 Picture of Mark O'Hara, TRAC Chair

TRAC Chair, Mark O'Hara

Representing South County and serving as TRAC Chair, Mark O’Hara self-identifies as a transit nerd. But that wasn’t always the case! Mark first began regularly riding the bus in 2015, after a bad car accident convinced him to hang up the keys and take the bus instead. In fact, when he bought his house in 2016, he made sure his new home was near a bus line.


Mark first heard about TRAC through marketing efforts to attract new committee members via Facebook and public postings. Because he is extremely passionate about community service, he jumped on the opportunity to lend his voice and time to PSTA. After first serving as an alternate, he was eventually appointed as a permanent member and then elected chair. Although he had to step away for a bit in 2019, he was able to rejoin TRAC and has served on the committee for four years now.


“I thought joining TRAC would be a great chance for me to share my ideas about how PSTA could become a better transit agency. And it must have worked because PSTA won APTA’s Most Outstanding Agency in 2023!” Mark says.


But in all seriousness, Mark takes his role on TRAC very seriously. 


“Anything that goes before the PSTA Board of Directors will also go before TRAC members for their input. Which I think is important, as TRAC members are weekly PSTA riders who actually use the service every day. We are the people out in the field, engaging with buses, operators, and fellow riders. So, we offer a valuable perspective on projects and decisions the agency makes.”


Mark’s favorite part of being a member of TRAC is having a direct impact on the future of PSTA. He also enjoys sharing the knowledge he gains with non-riders and fellow riders alike. With all that he’s learned about the inner workings of transit, he has become a fully-fledged transit nerd.


“Some people spend their Sunday morning looking at the paper; I spend my Sunday morning looking at proposed transit maps.”


When asked who should join TRAC and why, Mark says that transit riders who have a vision for growth in this county should apply. Recently, Whit Blanton from Forward Pinellas (Pinellas County Planning Organization) presented growth projections for the county and it is anticipated that the population may grow to over one million people in the next few years. Such population growth will put a major strain on already congested roadways, making public transit more important than ever.


“Viable public transit will be essential as our community grows. For that reason, we need people more involved in advocating for transit. I’m especially excited about the Community Bus Plan and am looking forward to revamping some of our routes to better serve our county!” Mark says.

Kim Rankine

 Kim Rankine, TRAC Member representing PSTA Access, in her wheelchair in front of an Access vehicle, holding her arms out and giving a thumbs upTRAC Member Kim Rankine

Kim Rankine, one of the founding members of TRAC, represents PSTA Access riders on the committee (learn more about PSTA Access here). She’s been using PSTA’s paratransit services since 2003, allowing her to see the huge growth in PSTA Access over the past twenty years. And she couldn’t help but rave about the freedom and independence Access gives her every single day.


“I always make sure I reserve my rides and love that I can track where my ride is through the app. Using PSTA Access allows me to have a normal, busy life like anyone else. I always joke that, without PSTA Access, I would be a mushroom in the closet, hahaha! I have a packed schedule thanks to Access,” Kim says.


When Kim first learned about TRAC in 2014, she was serving on the Committee to Advocate for Persons with Impairments (CAPI) at the time. Heather Sobush, Director of Planning, who we featured in our Women in Transit at PSTA blog a few months ago, attended the CAPI meeting to see if anyone was interested in joining the newly established TRAC committee.


“I was interested,” Kim recalls, “so she and I met for coffee, and she convinced me to be one of the founding members of the committee!”


During her time as a TRAC committee member, Kim has cherished the opportunity to be the voice for people with physical and mental challenges. And that desire to represent the community is evidenced by her participation in other committees. She currently also serves on the County Council for Persons with Disabilities and volunteers at the Dali Museum. It’s safe to say that Kim loves to keep herself busy and is passionate about helping PSTA continue improving its paratransit services.


“PSTA Access is such a vital service for me, and being able to represent fellow riders with disabilities is one of my favorite things about serving on TRAC,” Kim says. “I’m the biggest fan of Access, so I’m thankful for the opportunity to give insight into the needs of those with impairments. PSTA’s TRAC allows me to give a voice to my community and be more involved in decisions that affect us.”


In Kim’s opinion, everybody should consider joining TRAC because it gives riders the chance to be directly involved in the projects PSTA is working on. “Because,” Kim says, “how can we make it better if we’re not actively involved?”

Jay James

 Picture of Jay James, TRAC member representing Mid-County

TRAC Member Jay James

Jay James, in their own words, has been riding PSTA “since being in the womb.” Their ancestors have lived in St. Petersburg for over 100 years and have always taken public transit. So, it’s no surprise Jay would follow in their footsteps and become an avid transit rider themselves.


Jay has served on TRAC since 2019, representing mid-county citizens in Pinellas. They first learned about TRAC while between jobs. After calling PSTA to learn what discounted fare programs were available, Jay learned about TRAC and was immediately interested. Especially being a lifelong, multi-generational transit rider, they felt they could offer a unique and valuable perspective to PSTA.


“I applied and joined TRAC at the end of 2019. Unfortunately, I took a job out of town and had to leave for a little while, but I was able to rejoin TRAC again in February of 2020 and have been serving on the committee ever since,” Jay explains.


Bringing a lifetime of transit riding experience to the table, Jay felt that joining TRAC would give them an opportunity to encourage positive change at PSTA. “I wanted to give a voice to my community and TRAC allows me to do that,” Jay says.


Jay’s favorite part of being on TRAC is the chance to review plans and projects PSTA is working on, providing valuable feedback informed by their 41 years of riding transit. Each TRAC member’s insights and suggestions are essential to ensuring the decisions PSTA makes are in the best interest of every demographic or geographical area committee members represent. For Jay, being able to influence that change is the best part.


When asked who Jay thinks should join TRAC, they had this to say: “People who have a firm commitment to transit in our community and believe that transit is necessary for all of us. Those are the kinds of people who should join TRAC.”


With so many people just like Jay depending on public transit every day, there’s no question in Jay’s mind that transit is an essential service to all communities. Jay hopes that more people, both citizens and elected officials, will fight for transit, not against it.

Sean Schrader

 Photo of Sean Schrader, TRAC member representing students

TRAC Member Sean Schrader

It was towards the end of Sean Schrader’s junior year of high school that he became interested in trying out public transit. Although he was already driving, he was keenly aware of the many benefits of taking the bus—not only is transit better for the environment, but it helps ease traffic by getting more single vehicles off the road. Although Sean admits he loves driving, he made the conscious choice to take the bus instead. This one choice would ultimately lead him to joining TRAC, where he would represent students in Pinellas County.


Sean is certainly no stranger to public service. He has served as Secretary on the Clearwater Neighborhoods Coalition executive board, a student ambassador for Feeding Tampa Bay, a member of the Clearwater Charter Review Committee… and the list goes on and on. But it was during his time as a student at the University of South Florida, where he would serve as student governor, that he chose to get involved with PSTA on behalf of USF students.


“One of the biggest challenges that students shared with me was issues getting around the community due to a lack of transportation or access to a car,” Sean recalls. “It’s something you take for granted every day. Having access to those transportation options is really important, so I reached out to PSTA to discuss how we could make more students aware of the different programs and resources being offered.”


Sean’s passion and interest made him an obvious candidate for TRAC, as there was not yet a committee member to represent the concerns of students. In May of 2023, Sean would join TRAC and begin learning everything he could about PSTA and the programs on offer.


“PSTA is an essential service,” Sean says. “It’s not one of those things that are used every once in a while; it is something that many, many people depend on on a daily basis. The decisions being made don’t just fall out of the sky; they’re being determined by folks who use these services every day, know what they’re like, know what works and what doesn’t, and how we can move forward effectively. I think that involvement really shows the commitment of PSTA to be informed decision-makers that do what’s in the best interest of the members of our community.”


Sean’s favorite part about serving on TRAC is getting to learn from subject-matter experts who provide so much in-depth information for a deeper level of understanding. While he does not see himself as a transit expert, he loves learning about PSTA’s services and programs so he can help fellow students better understand how they can utilize public transit. After all, thanks to the Universal Pass Program (UPASS), Pinellas County School students and college students are able to ride PSTA for free!


“Unfortunately, there is this belief that there’s no point getting involved in local government or civic activities because your voice or your actions won’t make a meaningful difference,” Sean says. “But TRAC proves there is still power to getting involved and advocating for meaningful change. There are still people who will listen and go above and beyond to solve the issues for everyday community members.”

Interested in Joining TRAC?

If hearing from current TRAC members has inspired you to represent your community for positive change in public transit, consider applying to become a member of TRAC or attend an upcoming TRAC meeting. Anyone is welcome to attend a TRAC meeting here at PSTA headquarters or watch live online.