Name: Michelle Wise

Route: 864 bus at Magnolia Ave. and Madison Ave. to

El Cajon Transit Center to

Orange Line trolley to downtown San Diego to

20 bus at 11th Avenue and B Street to

North County Fair mall in Escondido to

358 bus to Escondido Transit Center to

350 bus to Palomar Medical Center

Note: last leg cancelled because the trip took too long

Time: 3 hours, 35 minutes before deciding to give up and go home

Michelle Wise never got where she was going today.

I met her in El Cajon this morning to go with her to a doctor’s appointment in Escondido. But the bus-trolley route she was given when she called the bus information line made her two hours late for her appointment.

We transferred from bus to trolley to bus just to get to North County., and by the time we were in Rancho Bernardo, it was 2:30 p.m., a half-hour after her appointment was scheduled. Wise kept going while I got off to wait for the bus going the opposite way, because I had another appointment to follow a commuter from University Towne Center at 3:45.

When I called him from my cell phone, that commuter was kind and ducked into a bookstore for about 20 minutes so I could still meet up with him. But doctor’s schedules can’t be very flexible, and Wise would’ve been two hours late by the time she arrived there. Before making the last bus transfer, which would have added another 40 minutes to her commute, she turned around and headed home at 3:20.

Throughout the trip, Wise appeared calm and resigned to the bus’s schedule. Every once in a while she checked her watch as the clock’s hands drew nearer to her appointment time, and eventually passed it. She called the doctor and told the receptionist she was still en route. At that point, a few minutes after 2 p.m., she was still hopeful she’d make it there.

This frustration isn’t a rare occurrence for Wise, whose car broke down a year and a half ago and she hasn’t yet been able to pay for the necessary repairs. She’s been taking the bus and the trolley for almost every trip she makes, bugging a friend for a ride sometimes if she’s desperate. She works in El Cajon, doing in-home care for senior citizens, which she walks or buses to. But most of the doctors she sees are at UCSD in La Jolla, a trip that can take two-and-a-half hours from El Cajon.

“All the time I’m thinking, ‘In two-and-a-half hours I could be in L.A.,’” she said. “And if one little piece doesn’t connect, it takes a lot longer.”

Her daughter, who attends Santana High School in Santee, also uses public transit. That trip might take 15 minutes in a car, but her daughter has to leave the house at 6:10 a.m. and usually arrives at school just minutes before classes begin at 8:14.

Right now, 7 p.m., Wise is still on the road on her way home. She still has to catch a bus from the El Cajon Transit Center.

KELLY BENNETT

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