Schlep For Transit


After a long, hard fight, the campaign for regional transit tragically lost on November 8th - by a small 1%. We were really close. The incredibly hard work of the Vote Yes for Regional Transit coalition in the past months was evident. We should be really proud of our contributions -- DJJ made a tangible difference in this campaign. Our Schlep for Transit effort brought us knowledge and expertise on transit issues and how we can organize for a better system in the future. We look forward to seeing this campaign through down the road. Read on to learn more about the issue, the regional transit proposal, and how DJJ supported the campaign.


Our Accomplishments

  • We hosted two successful phone banks at Red Door Digital and Birmingham Temple with over 40 total attendees, making more than 1,000 calls to our DJJ network and beyond.

  • We collected more than 250 voter pledges and distributed 130 lawn signs.

  • We brought 70 people to educational events at Isaac Agree Downtown Synagogue and the Well.

  • 5 leaders wrote amazing pieces in the Jewish News, the Macomb Daily, the Detroit News, and the Detroit Free Press.

  • We spread the word to several local Jewish institutions and synagogues.

  • Our #SchlepforTransit hashtag campaign amassed 350 likes and shares.

  • We built lasting relationships with incredible organizations like Transit Riders United, Motor City Freedom Riders, and the Ecology Center.

  • Rabbi Alana wrote an impassioned Rosh Hashanah sermon advocating for regional transit and joined several faith leaders in a call for transit.

  • We even attracted attention in a national Jewish news outlet.



The Problem

If you live in Southeast Michigan, we don’t need to tell you that our transit system needs work. For decades, people in our region have been disconnected from jobs, schools and services. Many areas cannot be reached at all using transit. Where buses are available, they are often slow, uncoordinated and unreliable. The truth is that our public transit system does not serve the public. In a ranking of cities by transit usage per capita, metro Detroit comes in at 134th.

Here’s how limited public transit holds us back:

Access to jobs: Most Detroiters work outside the city, while a large majority of people who work in Detroit are commuters. But 92% of jobs in Southeast Michigan can’t be reached within 60 minutes using public transit.

Health care: So far in 2016, 19,000 patients missed appointments at major Southeast Michigan hospitals because they could not get there.

Environment: Transportation contributes to 29% of U.S. carbon emissions - and due to our dependence on cars, our state is one of the worst culprits.

Intersectionality: Seniors and folks living with disabilities struggle to live full and independent lives because they can’t get where they need to go. A lack of transit disproportionately affects low-income communities and people of color, who already face particular challenges to securing employment and educational opportunities.

Community: A lack of transit maintains the barriers between city and suburbs and and makes it harder to build relationships across lines of race and class.


The Solution


Thankfully, this November, we have the opportunity to turn around our transit system.

Four years ago, the state established the Regional Transit Authority with the mission of transforming transit in Southeast Michigan. After countless conversations and tons of research, the RTA unveiled a comprehensive master plan for a system that is bigger, faster, and easier to use. On November 8th, voters in Macomb, Oakland, Washtenaw and Wayne Counties will be asked to approve a 1.2 mil property tax measure to fund the plan.


If enacted, the RTA’s plan will connect 2 million people to existing jobs and create new ones. It will coordinate local transit services to develop more frequent and reliable routes, with special attention to the needs of aging and disabled populations. The plan will bridge gaps to areas that are not current accessible by public transit, like Livonia, Novi, and Rochester Hills. With more efficient transit, parents will spend more hours with their families. Students will have more time to study and enjoy recreation. And it will only cost the average taxpayer $8 a month. That’s about what you spend on a dozen bagels.

We’ve got a shot at this.

Recent polls indicate that a majority of voters in the region support the plan. But we have to get the word out. Election day is fast approaching and we continue to encounter people who don’t know this issue is on the ballot. We need to activate our networks in the Jewish and progressive communities to raise awareness about the proposal.

Above: DJJ Leaders Sam and Syma practice their RTA pitch

With your support, we far surpassed our goal of collecting 1,000 signatures for the MI Time to Care campaign for Earned Sick Time. Our base has only grown since then - and we know we can get tons of folks schlepping to the polls for transit on November 8th.


How You Can #SchlepforTransit

  • Sign the pledge: We’re supporting our partners at Motor City Freedom Riders to get out their pledge to vote on November8th. Sign it here and enter "DJJ" as your organization so we know how many people we're reaching. Contact us for information about how to collect pledges in your network.

  • Attend an educational event:

The Fight for Regional Transit - Thursday, October 20th, 6:30 - 8 pm at the Isaac Agree Downtown Synagogue

We’re partnering with Isaac Agree Downtown Synagogue for an evening of discussion with Transit Riders United and Motor City Freedom Riders. We’ll talk about the history of transit inequity in our region, the issue’s ties to structural racism, and future opportunities for a better system. You’ll also learn how you can get engaged with the campaign. Visit the website page here and the Facebook event.

Dude, Where’s My Ride? - Wednesday, October 26th, 7 - 9 pm at the Office Coffee Shop in Royal Oak

Join us and The Well to explore the Jewish tradition's perspective on transportation justice and hear from representatives of the Regional Transit Authority about the master plan and ballot initiative - and how it can make the Motor City region more accessible for all. 


  • Join our phone banks: In a last push before election day, we’re packing into Red Door Digital on Tuesday, November 1 and Birmingham Temple on Wednesday, November 2 to remind our community to Vote YES for Regional Transit. RSVP here and reach out if you’d like to host your own at your home or synagogue!

  • Share our Facebook post, or write your own, with the hashtag #SchlepforTransit. Spreading the word about this issue is critical. Raise your voice in support of the RTA and encourage your personal network to do the same. Follow us for more posts you can share in the coming weeks.                             We have buttons!

  • Remember to encourage your friends and family to register to vote by the October 11th deadline. Visit the Secretary of State to download a registration form.

We're just begun the Jewish New Year, a time when we look back at what we could have done better - and what we can change as we move forward. Doesn’t that sound like a great time to start a new chapter in our region? We can make that happen - and it starts with showing up on November 8th for regional transit.                                                                                                                                   

Schlep on!