Workforce Development – CTUIR

Removing Obstacles: Confederated Tribes of Umatilla

Operated by the Confederated Tribes of the Umatilla Indian Reservation (CTUIR), Kayak Public Transit has an extensive fixed route bus system. (Photo: BIRTA Regional Transit Association)

Located in rural Oregon, CTUIR long struggled with a lack of transportation options that prevented tribal citizens from accessing local training and employment opportunities and made it difficult for reservation businesses to attract employees and customers. As one CTUIR official put it, “In some cases, it was harder for tribal members to get to the job site than to get a job or even housing.” In response, in 2001 CTUIR launched its own public transit and taxi voucher system that provides   service to 10 neighboring towns and cities in five counties across two states. Creatively pooling dollars from various tribal, state, and federal sources, the system – called Kayak Public Transit (KPT) – runs six free bus routes for CTUIR members and other local residents, increasing its ridership from 47,000 rides in 2008 to more than 70,000 annually today. Meanwhile, 40% of KPT’s taxi vouchers are used by on-reservation employees, who report saving between $130 and $200 monthly (increasing household disposable income and, in turn, consumer spending at local businesses). By coordinating with area non-tribal transit systems and providing service to non-Natives, KPT also is fostering improved relations between CTUIR and surrounding governments.

CONNECT: Susan Johnson, Public Transit Manager, Confederated Tribes of Umatilla,


To learn more about Umatilla’s workforce development story, click on the resources below.

CTUIR Kayak Public Transit Website
Honoring Nations: CTUIR Public Transit (2010) (case study)
East Oregonian: Countries, tribes look to partner for public transit 
City of Hermiston: Hermiston HART Free Bus Service to Begin Operations
East Oregonian: CTUIR to hire own drivers to guide Kayak