Detroit Man Walks 21 Miles to Work Each Day

If you complain about your morning commute, you need to stop and consider the four-hour trek 56-year-old Detroit man James Robertson takes every day to reach his factory job 23 miles away in the suburb of Rochester Hills.


When James' 1988 Honda Accord stopped working in 2005, he began taking the bus part way to his job, then walking the other 21 miles to Schain Mold & Engineering, according to the Detroit Free Press. He told the paper he didn’t get a new car because, "I haven't had a chance to save for it."

Robertson makes makes $10.55 per hour, more than Michigan's minimum wage of $8.15 an hour but not nearly enough to purchase and maintain a car in Detroit. At $5,109 per year, Detroit has the most expensive car insurance in the nation. The commute is incredible but that's how it is, given that Metro Detroit has cut back its bus service routes and car ownership is out of reach for many residents.

As rough as  Robertson's commute has been, his boss says it hasn’t stopped him from getting to work on time.

"I set our attendance standard by this man," Todd Wilson, plant manager at Schain Mold & Engineering, told The Free Press. "I say, if this man can get here, walking all those miles through snow and rain, well I'll tell you, I have people in Pontiac 10 minutes away and they say they can't get here — bull!"

Robertson's co-workers give him a lift when they can; Wilson’s wife makes sure he has homecooked food during dinner time each day.

“Oh, yes, she takes care of James,” Wilson told the Press. “And he's a personal favorite of the owners because of his attendance record. He's never missed. I've seen him come in here wringing wet."

The commute takes a toll on him though, says his coworker Janet Vallardo, 59, of Auburn Hills. "He comes in here looking real tired — his legs, his knees," she told The Free Press.

Robertson has walked to work in the freezing cold, snow, rain and during the summer heat. Getting home after work at night is even tougher because he has to go through rough parts of town. He was mugged once.

According to the Free Press, Robertson operates “a injection-molding machine the size of a small garage, carefully slicing and drilling away waste after removing each finished part, and noting his production in detail on a clipboard.”

He keeps himself energized at work by drinking 2-liter bottles of Mountain Dew and cans of Coke.

There is a bright spot to this story. After the Free Press ran James story, hundreds of people around the country began raising money for him to purchase a vehicle. More than $53,000 has been raised as of noon today.

A local car dealership has offered to give Robertson a a 2014 Chevrolet Cruz or Sonic. "He gets to choose," said Angela Osborne, customer service specialist at Rodgers Chevrolet in Woodhaven. "We were just impressed with his determination.”

Robertson would have to pay the $900 tax on the car.

After hearing about the money that has been raised for him, all James could say in response was, “Are you serious?”

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