'Walking Man' becomes mass transit advocate

He's "The Walking Man"  -- a man who walked 21 miles each day just to get to work.

Now he's working to make sure others can get where they need to go. James Robertson has turned his story into a platform to promote mass transit in the area. He's encouraging voters to choose yes on the Regional Transit millage but not everyone is on board.

A lot of people would benefit from the Regional Transit Authority proposal - it is something that a lot of people are paying attention to now, because of one man's plight. Robertson's story was dramatic but not terribly uncommon. And he doesn't forget what life used to be like.

"It's been almost two years but it's still quite an adjustment," he said.

His story made headlines around the world as for years, Robertson trekked miles to work and from work in-between bus rides.  Now he's making strides for mass transit.

"I would like to see them vote yes to revamp the millage," he said.

FOX 2 met Robertson at TechTown Detroit which showed a documentary that both told his story and pushed for the passage of the Regional Transit Authority Millage.

"The story of the walking man is the story of the failure of mass transit bureaucracy," said Leon Drolet.

Drolet is leading the charge against the RTA millage and says if the bus systems can't get things right with the money they already have, why pour more into it.

"It's not that enough money isn't being spent," he said. "We already spend in metro Detroit enough money to give every regular user of mass transit a brand new Chevy Trax SUV every two years with money left over."

And the millage would raise about $3 billion dollars and possibly another $2 billion from the state and federal government. It would cost homeowners whose properties have a taxable value of about $80,000 roughly $100 a year for the next 20 years.

"Paying for the buses is just like anything else if you want good quality you have to pay for it," Robertson said.

Drolet doesn't buy it.

"But it also closes lanes on major roads to cars like on Gratiot, like on Woodward," he said. "And to make them bus only lanes is going to snarl up traffic."

But proponents say even that would be worth it'll help people wearing the shoes Robertson once walked in.

"I think in a way we owe it to those people to help them out so they can work," said Blake Pollack, Robertson's friend. "We shouldn't just help people out if they're not willing to put their own skin in the game but there are people that want to work, that want to have jobs, that want to get around, that can't."

Call it a collision course of ideas about taxes transit and connecting the city and suburbs that many argue would improve the lot of every community in metro Detroit.

Regardless of how it shakes out, the man whose story made everyone pay attention to our transit woes will be driving to work.

FOX 2 "You're probably not going through shoes as quick as you did before?"

"No not as much," Robertson said.

Now Robertson still has the same boots he wore when he walked miles to and from the bus stop every day. He and you will decide the fate of the RTA millage on Tuesday.
 


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