National Transit Group Honors CTUIR Employees Robert & Sue Johnson

CTUIR employees Robert and Susan Johnson were chosen as honorees for the 2023 National Rural Transit Assistance Program Wall of Fame. (Photo courtesy of CTUIR)

Confederated Tribes of the Umatilla Indian Reservation (CTUIR) employees Robert and Susan Johnson have been selected as honorees for the 2023 National Rural Transit Assistance Program Wall of Fame.

The Johnsons, who are married, will be two of 12 people recognized as inaugural Wall of Fame honorees Dec. 3-6 at the National RTAP Technical Assistance Conference in Myrtle Beach, South Carolina.

Those honored are being recognized for exemplary service in the rural and tribal transit industry for their dedication, innovation, customer service and professionalism. The Johnsons are being commended for their work with the CTUIR’s Kayak Public Transit.

“I feel deeply honored to have received this award and am thankful that I am able to travel to accept this award,” Susan Johnson said. She retired from Kayak in February but is contracting with the agency to provide training and support. “I’ve thoroughly enjoyed working with Kayak Public Transit and the great staff that work hard to keep the program running smoothly.”

Robert Johnson, who retired from Kayak in March 2021, has also returned to the transit agency as a part-time driver training instructor and special projects support.

“It was very gratifying to have been chosen for the Wall of Fame,” he said. “It is a humbling experience to be honored in this way. I never performed my work with the thought of being recognized and honored for it. I always looked at it as my contribution to this great industry.”

Collectively, the two dedicated 31 years to the service.

Susan Johnson helped build the transit system from scratch, beginning in 2001, as administrative support for the first transit service providing transportation options between Pendleton and Mission.

She grew the program to become a regional transit provider, offering fare-free rides to connect 18 communities in four counties in Oregon and Washington. The routes cover more than 100 miles east to west and 70 miles north to south.

Before joining Kayak as the fleet and safety manager in 2013, Robert Johnson had 38 years of experience as a diesel mechanic, including six years as an instructor at Blue Mountain Community College.

He helped establish Kayak’s Transit Center, which was completed in 2013, and developed its Fleet Maintenance System, which is nationally recognized as a gold standard in rural transit fleet management.

Earlier this year, the two were jointly awarded Oregon’s 2023 Distinguished Service Award.

Kayak Public Transit General Manager Vicki Croes nominated the Johnsons for the award. She said the two “built a solid transit operation and their contribution to the organization will be felt for years to come.”

Each honoree will be showcased on the wall and on the National RTAP website as well as receive a commendation. Honorees who attend the conference will also receive National RTAP Honoree business cards and lapel pins.

The CTUIR owns and operates Kayak. It is funded by federal, state, local and tribal grants and contracts to provide public transit services to the region. For information, call 541-429-7519 between 4 a.m. and 8:30 p.m., Monday through Friday.


  1. Sue and Rob are wonderful people! They both worked very hard on establishing Kayak and making it a lasting part of their community! They deserve this recognition and more for all their efforts! It’s a pleasure and honor to know them, they are wonderful people!


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