Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Another Weekend in Willamette

It's a little late, but I wanted to post about a great weekend we had recently. We spent just one night down in Willamette Valley, Oregon and visited some of our favorite wineries. This time we decided to rent a house on VRBO. We came across a really great house that was relatively inexpensive and in a terrific location. Perfect for 4 people.

While there we tasted at four wineries:
Sokol Blosser
August Cellars
Et Fille

After a long day of tasting we hung out at the house, played games, and ordered pizza. A great weekend!

Thursday, February 18, 2010

Begging for ORCA customer (no) service...

* UPDATE, 24 Feb '10 *
Well, still no reply from customer service. However, after a couple of "test" runs over the last few days, the fare now seems to be working correctly. It still says it charges the extra $.25, but when I log in 24hrs later to check my ORCA card balance, it isn't deducting that extra $.25 from my e-purse balance.

So, litlnemo from the comments is either correct, or my luck has changed. Sounds like I should take the rail to the airport soon for my next visit to Las Vegas!

* UPDATE, 20 Feb '10 *
Thanks to litlnemo for the detailed comment and suggestion. I have logged into my ORCA card activity before, but unfortunately it only gives me a running balance instead of transaction history. Since any given day ranges from a variable amount of bus and rail trips, according to that day's schedule, it makes for less-than-transparent what is going on. Some day if I have a simple schedule I'll test it out with a rail only trip as described in the original post, and see how it goes.

Thanks again for the detailed reply. It sure would be nice if my multiple inquiries to ORCA could have given such a helpful explanation!

************* Original Post ***********************************************************

One Regional Card for All (ORCA)..... if only it weren't skimming.

I recently contacted the Sound Transit ORCA card (transit pass) customer service regarding a daily fare overcharge issue during my work commute using the Link rail.

Below are how-to instructions to pay the fare, copied from the ORCA website:

begin copy <<

SounderOn Sounder and Central Link Link

ORCA: Tap your card at the reader located on the train platform before boarding the train. Present your valid ORCA card to the conductor or fare inspector upon request. When exiting, tap your card at the card reader at the station to complete your transaction and to ensure that the correct fare is deducted.

If you are using a pass on your ORCA card and the per-trip value of your pass is less than the cost of the fare for your trip, use E-purse to cover the difference. ORCA users can add E-purse value to the ORCA card at the TVM. Tap your card as you normally would and the correct fare will automatically be calculated and deducted.

PugetPass: Show your pass to the conductor or fare inspector upon request. If the per-trip value of your pass is less than the cost of the fare for your trip, you must purchase a pass upgrade at the ticket vending machine (TVM) prior to boarding. Show the upgrade to the fare inspector along with your pass.

If you pay a reduced fare you must show the conductor or fare inspector a valid Regional Reduced Fare Permit and proof of payment.

>> end copy

Despite following these instructions, I am overcharged $.25 per trip every time I ride the Link rail. Rather than blow $10/mo (at least....) by not resolving the issue, I decided to email ORCA. Please enjoy the following exchanges, listed in chronological order.

Please also note the gaps between message dates...

-----Original Message-----
Sent: Thursday, January 28, 2010 7:14 AM

To: OrcaCard

Subject: Link is overcharging me - ref# 25435

First Name: Robert


Hello, I commute from Renton to Seattle during off-peak times daily. I take the MT101 to the Sodo Link rail station ($2 fare), then take Link to Beacon Hill ($1.75 fare). I have a $2 monthly puget pass loaded on my Orca card (omitted in this post) with extra money in my e-purse in case I ever exceed $2 fare for any segment. The bus Orca reader works fine and recognizes my pass covers the $2 fare. However, when I tap entering the Link platform at Sodo, the Link Orca reader charges me an extra $0.25? Why is it doing this without even knowing how far I will travel? When I exit tap in Beacon Hill the Orca reader acknowledges my $2 pass on the screen but says nothing about (refunding) the extra $0.25 it debited my card at the entry tap in Sodo. Am I not supposed to entry-tap my Orca card when I enter the Link platform since I've already tapped on the bus? Maybe that middle tap is confusing Orca?


from OrcaCard

to Rob

Sent at 3:52 PM (GMT-08:00). Current time there: 8:57 PM. ✆

date Thu, Feb 4, 2010 at 3:52 PM

subject RE: Link is overcharging me - ref# 25435

Good day!

Thanks for contacting us about the ORCA card.

When you ride on the trains, you have to tap the card when you board and again when you've reached your destination. Otherwise, you may be charged incorrectly for your trip.

Please tap when you tap off at our destination.



Sent: Thursday, February 04, 2010 7:20 PM

To: OrcaCard

Subject: Re: Link is overcharging me - ref# 25435

Did you even read my description of the problem? Please read it again,

below. Link charges me $2.25 for what should be a $1.75 fare!




from OrcaCard

Sent at 12:05 PM (GMT-08:00). Current time there: 9:05 PM. ✆

to Rob

date Wed, Feb 10, 2010 at 12:05 PM

RE: Link is overcharging me - ref# 25435

The email was read correctly. We were trying to explain why you were charged the $2.25 instead of $1.75.

If you don't tap off, the system doesn't know where you disembarked and will charge you to the end of the line. This is why we stressed to tap on an off when riding the trains to ensure correct fare is charged to you.



Sent: Wednesday, February 10, 2010 1:19 PM

To: OrcaCard

Subject: Re: Link is overcharging me - ref# 25435

What we have here is a failure to communicate.

I already explained in my initial inquiry that I did tap off, but was

still overcharged. Please read it again below, carefully.

Now, to ask yet again, why was I charged $2.25 before I boarded the

train for a $1.75 trip, and not refunded the $0.50 overcharge when I
tapped off?




Sent at 11:08 AM (GMT-08:00). Current time there: 9:10 PM. ✆

to Rob

date Thu, Feb 18, 2010 at 11:08 AM

subject RE: Link is overcharging me - ref# 25435

The system did not record your tapping off. If it had, you would have been charged correctly.

We can send you a free Link ticket for the compensation. Please write back with your mailing address.



Sent at 11:58 AM (GMT-08:00). Current time there: 9:13 PM. ✆

to OrcaCard

date Thu, Feb 18, 2010 at 11:58 AM

subject Re: Link is overcharging me - ref# 25435

Wow, this is amazing. Let's try again.

The "tap on" overcharges me $0.25. Obviously this happens before I "tap off" and I don't see why the "tap on" should be charging anything since it has no idea how far I will travel. Can you please defend why the "tap on" even charges anything? From what you have explained, my understanding is the fare should be calculated, and charged, at "tap off" point. Correct?

Thanks for the offer to compensate with a Link ticket, but that does not solve the problem. This happens every day! This is madness, and it seems to me the system has bigger problems.

Since I seem to be getting nowhere, perhaps you would rather answer this from a local media investigative reporter?



So far, no answer to my last message. Now, I felt like my description of
the issue was simple enough.... does it seem clear to you? And since each reply includes the previous message (just like any other email exchange), it's not like they aren't aware of my previous text each time I write back. Feel free to comment if it's unclear to you.

More importantly, does this happen with your ORCA card?

I feel this problem must be more widespread and I hope others are complaining. I'll update if/when things are resolved!

Monday, February 15, 2010

Remember this Post? A few weeks ago Rob posted that picture to mention the beginning of the spring blooms. We love February in Seattle. The weather starts to get a little nicer and the spring flowers start to bloom. We usually go on vacation in early March and then before you know it summer is here. It's a lovely cycle . Anyway, the tree is now in full bloom. Isn't it pretty?

Cobblestone Update

I finally was able to get Rob to pose for a picture with the Cobblestone Sweater. I am not sure what he was doing but, you can see the details of the sweater.

Tuesday, February 09, 2010

“Don’t Hate Me Because I’m Solvent”

This is an older article but one of my favorites. Buying a house you can afford and doing the work yourself. Interesting concept!
Photo from New York Times

Reposted from 1912 Bungalow Blog: "I just read an interesting article in the New York Times: “Don’t Hate Me Because I’m Solvent“. A couple purchased a 1913 Tudor brick house for $65,000 12 years ago in Akron, Ohio. The home is amazing (before and after photos included in the article) with 6 fireplaces, solarium, billiards room and servant call buttons. The couple offered the owner 45K less than the already reduced asking price. The offer was accepted because the house was about to be condemned.

They tackled the majority of the restoration work themselves, saving a considerable amount of money in the process. The couple has no debt except for a 55K mortgage. It is an interesting comparison to people who purchased more house than they could afford and are now feeling the pinch.

The restoration, still ongoing, is not without personal sacrifice. One of the things that I have struggled with during our ongoing house restoration is the loss of personal time, family time and trying to strike a balance between working on the house and “having a life.”

When asked how long projects like re-caulking 733 window panes takes, the home owner replied:

“Years,” Mr. Giffels says. “This is where I’m glad I wrote the book 10 years later, it gave me a perspective of all the time it cost: All my vacation time, all my possible spare time, a number of years of my children’s growing up I gave to my children’s house. And once you get in it, you can’t get out, you can’t sell a house in that condition. When all of a sudden you realize what it is costing you in your life, it’s too late.”

Boy, I can sure relate to that sentiment. How about you?

Although, after reflection, the couple says they wouldn’t do anything differently. And, I understand that feeling, too.

A book, “All the Way Home: Building a Family in a Falling-Down House,” recounting the couple’s experience comes out next month."

Friday, February 05, 2010

Cobblestone Sweater

I made Rob this sweater for Christmas and I keep forgetting to post about it. It's Jared Flood's Cobblestone Sweater from Interweave Knits.

I don't have any pictures of it on, but here are some pictures from blocking. I usually don't block my sweaters, but I found with this sweater I had to. The garter stitch at the top really needed to be evened out. Even after the blocking that is the one part of the sweater I am not happy with.

I used Cascade 220 and it was a very easy and fast knit. It also looks great on Rob! I'll add a pictures as soon as I can track him down!