Name: Ken Elliott
Route: 1A Bus from 50th St. and El Cajon Blvd., to 70th Street Transit Center. Connect to Green Line trolley to the Arnele Ave. stop in El Cajon.
Time: 54 minutes, including transfer time
Ken Elliott grew up in New York City, a metropolis where people are known for being perpetually awake and always moving. In New York, if you want to get where you’re going, taxis and the city’s expansive subway system top the list over driving — empty parking spots are nearly extinct anywhere near the urban center, not to mention the traffic jams.
While nothing can compare to getting around in New York, Elliott says transit here in San Diego suits his needs. Part of that, he says, is that he’s chosen to live near bus service.
“I like moving around to different places,” he said, “but I always make sure to find the closest bus stop. It’s pretty easy to get every place I’ve gotta go.”
I met Elliott at his neighborhood bus stop at 50th St. and El Cajon Blvd. this morning a few minutes after 7:00 a.m., and tagged along on his commute to a morning class he’s taking in El Cajon. We arrived about 25 minutes before his class started, enough time to grab a cup of coffee at the McDonald’s down the street from the trolley station.
Elliott wore a faded black cap, a navy windbreaker, khaki pants and white running shoes. He carried a white shopping bag filled with papers and books and a San Diego Padres lunch box, stocked with a sandwich, juice, cookies and a Special K snack-sized container. He manages concession stands at Petco Park and Qualcomm Stadium, and is on-call for events at the Convention Center. He carries out all of his commutes on the trolley and the bus, except sometimes after midnight, when he’s able to arrange for someone to pick him up.
“Mass transit up ’til about 12:00 [a.m.], and I’m good to go,” he said. “For me, it’s ideal.”
The bus and trolley were silent this morning. Except when he has a pesky reporter invading his morning, Elliott said he doesn’t converse with anyone while he’s traveling — preferring to write or read. He grinned when he reached into his bag this morning and whipped out a well-worn book of Sudoku puzzles. He’s on page 52 of 148 puzzles. Elliott said he also uses the time he spends on the bus and trolley to read the Quran and study Arabic.
Elliott, 54, moved to Oceanside in 1979 to live near his brother, a retired Marine. He soon moved downtown, and now he’s living in City Heights, a neighborhood some of his friends in Oceanside warned him about because of crime and gang activity.
“I really don’t see it that way,” he said. “If you just stay unconcerned, let them do their thing and you do yours. This place is rich in culture — that’s its only plus, really.”
He’s not been back to New York.
“I feel like this is my home now,” he said. “The biggest thing that caught me is the weather.” Once accustomed to ice and snow, Elliott shivered this morning as the trolley doors opened to a gust of wind.
Elliott said he’s trying to shake some bad habits, including smoking — he carried a quitting-smoking pamphlet in his bag. Another goal for the year is to get a California driver’s license and a car.
“I can drive, I just haven’t driven here,” he said. “It’s just another bill. More headaches.”