Vehicle Pass FAQ Up

we be jammin'!

we be jammin’!

The latest JRS announces Burning Man’s new FAQ for Vehicle Passes. Unfortunately, it raises more questions than it answers.

Usually, FAQ’s are there to make it easier for the user; they achieve this by putting all the frequently asked questions and answers in one place, so you can quickly get the information you need. Burning Man’s one is more like a library, you have to dig into each individual question to get the answer, and the answers seem to be conflicting in some cases. They also provide another FAQ about this in a different section of their web site, with different information again.

We’ve been through them all, to try to piece together a clear picture of what the rules actually are. Here are some of the issues we see:

What is a Vehicle Pass?

This says “In 2014 every vehicle entering Black Rock City will be required to have a Vehicle Pass”. The wording is different from the FAQ on their blog (which is another FAQ in a different section of their web site, with different information), which says:

Q. Do I have to pay for a Vehicle Pass for my Mutant Vehicle?
A. If you are bringing your Mutant Vehicle in on a trailer, you do not need to have a Vehicle Pass for it. If you are driving it in, you need a Pass. Each stand-alone vehicle that drives through the gate must have a Vehicle Pass.

This is much more clear. Every vehicle that DRIVES in needs the pass – except, jumping back to yet another section of these sprawling FAQs, motorcycles. Art cars don’t need one if they’re on a trailer, they will still need to register with the Department of Mutant Vehicles though.

The blog FAQ, however, says the jury’s still out on motorcycles:

Q. Do motorcycles have to pay for a Vehicle Pass?
A. To be determined, but not at this time.

Why is there a limit to the number of vehicle passes?

Without any limit on the number of passes the program would be pretty much meaningless.  We must make some real progress on addressing the traffic issue and we need everyone to be part of the solution.

The program appears to be relatively meaningless anyway, since it is capping the number of vehicles at about what last year’s was, and doing nothing to prevent single-occupancy vehicles. Not only that, later in this edition of their vehicle pass FAQ’s, they say:

Based on demand, we may also have a separate late-season Vehicle Pass only sale.

…which seems to be leaving the door open for more vehicle passes in an “OMG! Vehicle Pass sale” if the program causes problems. A good thing for Burners, if people are screaming that they can’t get to the event because they have 4 people who want to go in one vehicle, but none of them can get a pass.

As for everyone being part of the solution, we’ve seen lots of great ideas from Burners online, such as offering vehicles with 3 or more passengers in for free, or a discount; or making high polluting RVs or single-occupancy vehicles pay more. The main problem with these ideas seems to be a financial one, rather than to do with their practicality.

Back to the “other” FAQ:

Q. Why not have an HOV (high occupancy vehicle) lane for cars with multiple passengers?
A. An HOV lane is under consideration but comes with its own logistical challenges (like having a way to prevent low occupancy vehicles from using the lane). 

…so, as many Burners have pointed out in the online discussions about this, their vehicle pass system does not prevent low/single occupancy vehicles in any way.

Q. Why not just charge a larger fee for RVs?
A. The issue isn’t the size or type of the vehicle but the number of vehicles using roads leading to the event — regardless of what kind of vehicle you drive, it’s another vehicle creating traffic and doing damage to the roads. We need all participants to examine how they get to and from the playa and work together to reduce traffic on the highways. Other large events have a footprint shortage. For now, we don’t. It’s our roadways that are limited.

This spells it out. There’s no shortage of room for Burners at the event, only a limit to size from the highways. They really are not concerned with emissions, or encouraging ride sharing. They just want an easy way for them to cap the number of vehicles (and make another million or two by doing so)…so that the population cap can increase. It appears the roadways being full is now the main impediment to them selling more tickets. As Maid Marian said in 2012, “the desert could accomodate 100,000 people”. It’s just the roads that can’t. 40,000 more tickets would be another $15,200,000 to this “non” profit – without any additional costs, this would go straight to their bottom line.

What about people with Low-Income Tickets? Confusingly, we have a couple of different answers for them to choose from:

If you have been accepted to the Low Income Ticket Program you will be given the option of purchasing a Vehicle Pass when you pay for your ticket


If you are awarded a Low Income ticket and need a vehicle pass, you may purchase one at the box office when you pick up your Low Income ticket at will call.

This seems to be two different answers to a single question. And it raises another point: they’ll be selling vehicle passes at the gate. It’d be awfully tempting for someone to let a few more in…who’s counting the counters? The vehicles are off the road at that point, sending them back onto the road would just make the situation worse. Much worse! Each additional 2500 vehicle passes is another $100,000…cash.

What about the big question? Can you buy more vehicle passes than tickets? Well, they haven’t done anything to clear up their confusing language, and they don’t directly address it, but reading between the lines, it appears that – as we predicted – yes, you can.

you may buy up to as many Vehicle Passes as the maximum allowable number of tickets you may purchase in any given sale, i.e. in the Pre-Sale the ticket limit is up to four (4) per person, hence you could buy up to four (4) Vehicle Passes, and in all other sales the ticket limit is up to two (2) per person and you may buy up to two (2) Vehicle Passes


Are the passes assigned to a specific vehicle?  

No, they’re not assigned to a specific vehicle. 


What if I am gifted a ticket? How should I buy a Vehicle Passes?

If you are gifted a ticket you may register for a ticket sale and only purchase a vehicle pass. We also anticipate folks will be able to find Vehicle Passes recirculating at face value in the community.


Can Vehicle Passes be bought/sold through STEP?  

No, at this time we do not have a centralized system for reselling and buying vehicle passes. Participants are encouraged to buy and sell them for face value within the community.

Conclusion? Vehicle passes aren’t linked to vehicles, you can buy them without buying tickets, you can buy 4 at a time if you register now, or 2 at a time in the subsequent sales. Burning Man fully expects there to be an aftermarket for these, and expects that people will be selling them for more than face value – they just “encourage” people not to make profits from them. 

Finally, some Burners have suggested that Gerlach might turn into a massive parking lot.

Gerlach5Can I park on the road in Gerlach and walk in to avoid the Vehicle Pass?

No. This is extraordinarily dangerous on many levels (the risk of getting hit by a car, dehydration, sun stroke, exposure, etc.), and counter to the entire purpose of the program to minimize traffic on the roadways impacted by people traveling to Black Rock City.

Although they say “no”, it’s hard to see how they are going to enforce this. Arrest people for walking on Federal land?  Limiting access through the gate to only people with motorized vehicles would seem to be counter-productive to the supposed purpose of this new tax.

27 comments on “Vehicle Pass FAQ Up

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  8. My take away is sad, but here goes: You can try all you want to do things “right” and “different” and “progressive” and “exemplary” but you still end up with the same crummy unoptimized, unsatisfying pile of crap. Things can change, but only from “bad” to “not quite as bad”.

    Vehicle passes look like they won’t solve the problem, but sure have created some new ones. Measuring this, it’s probably time to go back to the traffic management drawing board.

    Dear BMORG,

    You’re probably doing it wrong.


  9. Actually, the type of vehicle actually makes a big difference in road capacity. Roads with nothing but cars handle 2000 vehicles/lane/hour. Make it trucks and RVs it’s more like 700 vehicles/lane if there’s a decent number of those. I know, I’ve driven an RV in many times. You need longer stopping distances, you accelerate more slowly.

    So in spite of being in an RV myself sometimes, and often pulling a trailer, I think it would be quite reasonable to require a double pass from trucks, RVs and vehicles with trailers. Certainly any vehicle that is underpowered. Though those underpowered buses are often the ones carrying in a good crew of people, so I would not require a double pass from them if they are full of folks. (Ditto an RV using 6 or more of its seats.)

    But yes, as we’ve all noticed during exodus, the road is the limit on the size of the city. I won’t say that a 100,000 person city would not be a different place from the smaller cities, but it is at least possible.

    The train, alas, has been attempted but last time UP was not cooperative. It hasn’t been tried in a while, though, or so I think.

    • I agree – and also, heavier vehicles mean more wear and tear on the road. Just try taking I-5 from SF to LA and accidentally going in the “truck” lanes when you get to the hills North of LA and you can see this principle at work.
      Bring on the train! Hell, we get enough Burners on a train, we don’t even need to go to Burning Man…

    • Good point Brad, and Rv’s, as well as other heavy vehicles also cause far more road damage. My employer pays the state $2100 a year for the overweight permit on the truck I drive. Those ruts in the pavement on the highway weren’t made by Toyota Corollas.

  10. ‘40,000 more tickets would be another $15,200,000 to this “non” profit’

    As you know, the Burning Man LLC is still a for-profit company. It may be ad-infinitum, we haven’t been told elsewise. It seems to being sold (for 3 very large cash payments) to the Burning Man Project non-profit, only to be put as a for-profit subsidiary to the Burning Man Project. The ticket revenues from TTITD go to the Burning Man LLC, not to the non-profit, with the 6 LLC owners making their over $4,000,000 salary between them, with no end in sight.

    What’s occurring to the regionals? It seems the incredible Burners and groups who did such great work building up the regionals are being subject to much BM LLC rubbish who’s-in-control politics. The Burning Man Project’s Controller job listing says the Project is about to have multiple subsidiary companies. Are the regionals these companies? Something is occurring, the CORE burn is cancelled apparently by rubbish BM LLC internal politics, independent regionals websites are removed from the web, a consulting fee is to be paid from the regionals to the BM for-profit LLC when a regional party is thrown, and some regional events are being cancelled or not thrown this year. Are the incredible Burners and groups who were empowered with building the regionals and throwing their events being dicked over due to rubbish BM LLC money and control politics?

    • Thanks ABP. Do you have any more information about these three very large cash payments, or this consulting fee for regionals? How does the non profit get the cash to buy out the LLC owners? Surely not scarf sales! PM me if you prefer,

      Also I note that there are all kinds of consultants and rentals going on with the LLC, which no doubt will continue. There’s a ranch nearby that they bought, presumably someone’s renting that off someone else; there’s this new container rental/shipping business; there’s obviously some sort of deal cut with the monopoly service provider (United) that appears to be off the Afterburn books.

      It would be great to see the “Project” gifting at least this $1.4 million of vehicle tax windfall to other charities – this would be about 5 x the previous “ice profits” gifting, and more than double the Art Honorarium. All the problems you list would still exist, of course. But at least they would be doing SOMETHING good with all that cash.

      • scribe, SFBG, Burning Man event will benefit its new nonprofit, whose future role is still murky, 2013/7/24

        consulting fee for regionals and other quotes –

        ‘… Harvey said, later noting the LLC could become essentially a consulting firm that Burning Man regional organizations around the world pay for services. “That’s how things work in the real world.’

        ‘In the wake of my last story, I heard from sources within the LLC who appreciated me raising these issues and trying to keep the organization honest and true to its principles, but they’re all afraid to speak out publicly … They said that while four of the six LLC board members do seem willing to give up some control over the event and culture, Harvey and Goodell have gone the opposite direction and seem to be expanding their control as they travel the world as burner ambassadors.’

        ‘It may not always seem like it, but I also respect Harvey, Goodell, and the rest of the Burning Man leadership, even if I think a little more clarity and open public discussion is necessary now, ..’

      • Payments to LLC members –

        scribe, SFBG, Is Burning Man going communal or selling out?, 2011/4/6 –

        ‘Yet Harvey and the other board members, such as Michael Mikel and Marian Goodell, insist that the board plays an important role in shepherding the event and the culture that has grown up around it, which is why they plan on waiting three years to turn control of the event over to the new nonprofit, the Burning Man Project, and another three years after that until they liquidate their ownership of the name and associated trademarks and are paid for their value.’

        JRS V18:#3:9.20.13 THE NETWORK –

        ‘This fall the Project expects to begin considering and hopefully complete the
        offer from the Black Rock City LLC to absorb the shares and take over the
        ownership of that endeavor. The event will continue to have growing needs and
        won’t be able to satisfy the demands of our thriving culture. The Burning Man
        Project programs must be supported through philanthropic gifts and grants’

        Adding 1+1=2 from this duce of articles, the first big payment was made. There was a more direct mention of a payment, maybe down in a BM blog post in late September or early October on the Project taking ownership, I haven’t located.

        And, a beginning December Burning Man blog post said the LLC was a subsidiary of the Project and the LLC is in control of the event. Meaning thusly, the LLC is also in control of the event’s revenue streams, including the $1,400,000 vehicle tax, not the Project. Larry Harvey said the Project is to keep it’s hands clean of the event.

        Addendum the LLC’s aggressive actions to double event revenue the past couple of annums, 1+1+1=3 – the payments occur after the event each annum. With two years of payments to the LLC members remaining for annums five and six of the transition until ‘paid for their value’ after annum six, likely after the event bills are settled each year. I would presume it a self-financed buyout by cash raised each annum. What do others presume?

        Given the fundraising queries, apparently the Project has cash needs, but the LLC isn’t supplying significant funds to the Project, the LLC is keeping funds for expenses, salaries, and payouts. I have no intel beyond reading and watching corporations play these games.

        The big query is, after the three years of payments finishing in late 2015, will the LLC be dissolved or will it continue a for-profit subsidiary of the Burning Man Project? Given the Bait-n-Switch of the LLC retaining control of the event when they originally said the Project would have control by this annum, that query needs a direct answer.

      • thanks. All that money is going somewhere. If they get a big payout, then kick that back into the Burning Man Project, I’m guessing they get some sort of tax writeoff for that. Sounds like a ridiculously complex transaction for a dance party!

    • This is directly to a “A balance Perspective” as some one who is involved with the very first regional, Burning Flipside. I would just say how full of shit you are .” The Burning Man Project’s Controller job listing says the Project is about to have multiple subsidiary companies. Are the regionals these companies? ” Something is occurring, the CORE burn is cancelled apparently by rubbish BM LLC internal politics, independent regionals websites are removed from the web, a consulting fee is to be paid from the regionals to the BM for-profit LLC when a regional party is thrown, and some regional events are being cancelled or not thrown this year. Are the incredible Burners and groups who were empowered with building the regionals and throwing their events being dicked over due to rubbish BM LLC money and control politics?” That’s not happening from our perspective . In fact I would say you are so far removed from our reality that I can not even recognize what you are talking about . Not that I think this comment will last on this site . They are pretty quick at censoring things that don’t agree with their world view Feel free to contact people you know in the flipside,community. We are well spread out there in the burn community , In this capacity on this web site i am representing myself . feel the love . and really really there is some fucked up shit that passes for reality on this site .

      • we don’t censor anything here, Clovis. Not even your pathetic reference to the tragedy of 9/11 that you put on our Facebook group. You must be confusing Burners.Me with other Facebook groups or internet sites. On this aspect at least, it’s clearly YOU who is lying and trying to pass it off as reality. “Feel the love”? You just seem to be a hater, with no specifics to any of your points.

        I don’t know the details of the consulting agreement between BMOrg and the regionals, or what the new subsidiaries are going to be and do. If you have any information about that, please share it. Is the CORE burn going ahead again as normal this year? If so, tell us that.

        If you have any actual information about what you’ve read on this site that you don’t think is real, please share that too. We provide links and references to what we’re talking about, as our commenter A Balanced Perspective has done here when asked to.

      • You’re correct cLovis in that I don’t know what’s occurring to the regionals. I never claimed to know, I was asking queries of what’s occurring. I never mentioned any regional event, such as Flipside, in specifics.

        Changes are occurring with the regionals, why are the changes occurring? Posts on Otis’ Facecrack site said the Thursday CORE burn is kaput and the regional CORE teams are de-empowered from the org point-of-sight, but, please, bring your art. I was contemplating motoring down to LA for their planned regional burn soon, but their website has gone the way of the dodo and I didn’t find mentions of their regional burn with a quick search. Why? I don’t know, other Burners do, please elucidate.

        What’s the Project’s planned organizational structure with the new subsidiary companies? What are the subsidiary companies, beside the BM LLC? Are they planning for some regionals to be subsidiary companies to the Project? I recollect the org’s newish event boss has experience with multiple events being in separate event companies within an org on his CV, but don’t quote me on that. Is that the vision? Perchance a Powerpoint slide showing the planned Project structure? Who’s vision? Is the vision to de-centralize control of the regionals and regional events, empower Burners, and let Burner-style events flourish, such as Flipside and LIB? Or, are rubbish politics being played to de-empower Burners, centralize control, and, perchance, centralize money flows? I don’t know, those are queries.

      • cLovis, interesting how you challenged many if not most of ABalancedPerspective’s facts while providing none of your own, though claiming you have them. Are you a political pundit, or are you running for public office? I would hate to think that your lack of respect for logical thought and the scientific method would be wasted on being nothing more than a mindless BOrg supporter. Aim higher! (Besides, I think all the LCC equity positions and car passes are taken.)

  11. If we actually get a better road in a few years im for this, But im from california and im used to a bait and switch.

  12. What is the HOV lane proposal going to specify? How many people really go there in a car alone? Seems to me that most vehicles would be in the HOV lane if they don’t make it at LEAST 3+.

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