Tribal Government & News

Tillamook County ends bus services in Grand Ronde

12.14.2023 Sherron Lumely Transporation
(Contributed photo)


By Sherron Lumley

Smoke Signals staff writer

The Coastal Connector bus service, operated by the Tillamook County Transportation District, ended all service to Grand Ronde effective Monday, Dec. 11.

The Coastal Connector, bus route 60X, offered a three-zone standard fare for $6, running from Lincoln City to Salem via Grand Ronde. The latest cancellation follows another one this past summer that ended the 70X Grand Ronde Express to Salem.

That leaves just one public transit bus route to and from Grand Ronde. Yamhill County’s bus from Grand Ronde to McMinnville runs eight times a day, Monday through Friday.

Tribal Public Works Coordinator John Mercier said he is working with the Oregon Department of Transportation and Native American-owned consultants Akana on an immediate fix, with a new transportation plan to be negotiated in January.

“We are going to do everything we can to make that happen as soon as possible,” Mercier said. “The Tillamook cancellation is permanent. We didn’t think it would happen that suddenly but knew it was coming.”

Tillamook’s lack of resources, including enough drivers, were behind the abrupt route cancellation, according to Tillamook County Transportation District General Manager Brian Vitulli.

“At this time, I am making the difficult decision to sacrifice Route 60X, a crucial transit service that provides a vital need to your communities, in order to sustain the services that are critical to the Tillamook County service area,” he said in an email.

One job advertisement for a bus driver has been posted to the transportation district’s website for nearly a year and another for more than two years.

“From our side, it’s really hard to cancel a service like this,” Vitulli said. “This was a route that was doing really well but we are so low on drivers, we were faced with making cuts system-wide.”

The route cancellation affects the Grand Ronde and Siletz Tribes. Route 60X had a monthly ridership of 1,398, an increase of 48.5 percent from the previous year, as reported in the September 2023 transportation district ridership numbers.  

The Tribe receives transportation funding from the Federal Transit Administration and the state, as required by law, and uses this funding to pay for transit contracts. However, Vitulli noted that distance, effort and operating costs for the service were behind cancelling bus route 70X, which had lower ridership than 60X.

The Federal Transit Administration has a Public Transportation on Indian Reservations Program. In neighboring Washington, for example, the Cowlitz Reservation has an agreement with C-Tran, Clark County’s public transit system.

Mercier is considering a temporary service agreement with Yamhill County, which would only require an amendment to the current agreement. However, he said another option is to hire a private bus service contractor approved by ODOT short-term, allowing Akana time to complete its professional survey regarding the new service contract.

“Route 60X is a highly utilized route,” Mercier said. “Cherriots (Salem’s mass transit program) is interested. It’s time to negotiate.”

Riders should expect bus service from Grand Ronde to Salem to return in the near future, Mercier added. Meanwhile, Tribal members and Tribal Elders have access to private Tribal transportation for medical appointments and other services.

For more information regarding those options, call the Community Health Department at 503-879-2078. For more information about Yamhill County Transit, visit