"First Ride" winner is the story of time with family and community on a commute


"First Ride" winner is the story of time with family and community on a commute

Kara Fortuna and son Jasper
Kara Fortuna and son Jasper, photo courtesy of Fortuna 

The winning story in BART’s “First Ride” contest is the tale of a modern family, choosing public transportation, enjoying the benefits of time together, discovering community on a commute.

Kara Fortuna of San Leandro wrote about the first BART ride she took with her infant son Jasper, and about her experiences taking BART with him ever since.(He's now 16 months old). You can read the text version of her winning story below or download and hear an audio clip (.mp3) of Fortuna reading it in her own voice. The contest promoted the "First Ride" series of BART station art posters by local illustrator Josh Ellingson, and as the winner, Fortuna will receive an autographed set of the three posters.

Fortuna first learned about the posters from a website story but soon spotted them in stations along her commute, and pointed them out to baby Jasper. "They’re really charming," she said. "My favorite is the one of the little girl with the duck." In that poster, a girl holding a cuddly duck toy in one hand passes through a BART faregate, hand-in-hand with her mother. The girl glances behind her to see a mother duck, feather-in-feather with her duckling. The duckling holds a doll that resembles the human girl.

Fortuna said she was motivated to enter the contest because she loved the posters and also because she is a loyal BART rider.

"I enjoy taking BART with Jasper," she said. "I’ve always been a public transportation person myself, so it’s a good example to set for him. It’s also a great bonding opportunity for us. It’s an important part of our day."

Fortuna took BART for about 10 years on her own before becoming a mom, and took BART while pregnant with Jasper. His first ride ex utero came at 1 month of age, when Fortuna took her son to visit his dad at the San Francisco workplace of her husband – who is also a BART commuter. When Fortuna was ready to return to her workplace in Glen Park, she knew Jasper would be her commute partner, to his caregiver nearby her work. They walk together from their home to the BART station, about a 10-15 minute walk, then ride the 35 minutes or so to Glen Park. “As we walk to the station we can see the tracks from two or three blocks away,” she recalled. “And every time a train goes by he gives a little shriek.”

In her winning story, Fortuna wrote about the interaction with other “regulars” on their train each day.  “If I were to drive to my work it would be him sitting in his car seat in the back facing the back window for two hours each day,” she said. “We wouldn’t be interacting at all. This way I get to hold him and talk to him and play with him on our commute.” Fortuna is not sure where the posters will go up in their home – possibly in Jasper’s room. “His room is still a work in progress,” she said.

BART received dozens of entries for the “First Ride” contest, which included several stories recalling riders’ experiences taking BART on field trips as schoolchildren. One writer told about the freedom of movement her elderly father felt from being able to take BART when he could no longer drive. Another writer told of flying to the Bay Area with his new bride and taking BART to job interviews, landing the jobs, and a year later being happy newlyweds and still loyal BART riders. At least two people remembered trips where a youngster in their group ran back on board to get a forgotten item, only to have the doors close and be moving ahead all alone (to later return safely from the other direction). In one of the more unusual interpretations of “First Ride,” someone wrote in who was present at the “start of work’ ceremony for BART in 1964, where President Lyndon B. Johnson pushed a plunger to set off a ceremonial dynamite charge. The "memorable ride" involved standing behind with a dusty face as the president took off in his helicopter. BART thanks all the riders who wrote in with their “First Ride” stories (which had to be 200 words or fewer) and who have supported our efforts to promote Josh Ellingson’s art posters in BART stations.

By Kara Fortuna

At 15 months, Jasper is a seasoned BART commuter. His first BART ride was on his one month birthday, when we went into the city to visit his dad at work.  (That trip was more a test for me on how to navigate the BART system with a stroller!) For a year now, he’s been making the daily commute with me from our home in the East Bay to Glen Park, where I work.  He has regular fans he sees everyday.  They wave at him, and he waves back.  Since he’s starting talking, he greets people with “allo” and bids farewell with “buh-bye.” If it’s been a while since someone has seen him, they’ll switch seats to visit with him for a while.  Sometimes, if he’s particularly discontent with me, he’ll even climb into the laps of our seat neighbors.  Exiting tunnels is Jasper’s favorite part of the trip; he always gives a little shriek when he sees the sky again. He also enjoys watching the cars and trains and houses and warehouse go by out the window.  People frequently praise him for being so well behaved on the train. I just tell them he’s just a regular BART passenger.