MISSION, Ore. – The National Rural Transit Assistance Program has announced Kayak Public Transit as its most recent recipient of the RTAP Tribal Transit Agency Award.
The national award honors innovation, efficiency, commitment and performance in the tribal transit industry and recognizes challenges overcome and best practices that raise the bar for tribal transit, according to RTAP.
“This award is a result of all the hard work and dedication of the Kayak team long before I came,” Kayak General Manager Vicki Croes said. “I feel honored to be part of such an amazing group that has surpassed all expectations as a tribal transit agency. I look forward to our continued success and growth.”
“Kayak started as a transportation solution to tribal members that needed to access school, shopping, medical and other services, and as the program grew it was quickly realized this is a challenge the entire region also struggled with. Kayak is a testament to regional collaboration, dedication and determination and finding robust solutions to common challenges.” said JD Tovey, deputy executive director of the Confederated Tribes of the Umatilla Indian Reservation (CTUIR), which owns and operates Kayak.
The CTUIR launched its first fixed route in 2001 to meet tribal members’ transportation needs. The agency expanded its capacity, took over maintenance responsibilities, developed comprehensive performance measurements and extended its service area. It was rebranded Kayak Public Transit in 2014.
Today, Kayak provides free and accessible transportation for the public in 19 rural communities in Northeast Oregon and Southeast Washington. All its buses are equipped with wheelchair lifts and bicycle racks.
The transit program is funded through a combination of federal and state grants and CTUIR general funds.
Angie Jones, Oregon Department of Transportation Public Transportation Division’s Region 5 transit coordinator, nominated the Kayak for the award. Croes is expected to receive the award during the RTAP Technical Assistance Conference Dec. 3-6, 2023, in Myrtle Beach, South Carolina.
The award marks the second time Kayak has been honored by RTAP. In 2019, Kayak was awarded the Tribal Transit System Award for creating a vision for regional mobility for tribal members through the CTUIR’s historic tribal lands by forging partnerships with the state, ODOT, adjacent counties and towns.
This past August the program also received two recognitions from the Oregon Transit Association: the 2023 Distinguished Service and 2023 Transit Driver of the Year awards.
The Confederated Tribes of the Umatilla Indian Reservation is comprised of the Cayuse, Umatilla, and Walla Walla Tribes, formed under the Treaty of 1855 at the Walla Walla Valley, 12 Stat. 945. In 1949, the Tribes adopted a constitutional form of government to protect, preserve and enhance the reserved treaty rights guaranteed under federal law.