Burning Man Pays For More Cops

The Reno Gazette Journal reports that Burning Man will be spending an additional $105,000 this year so that Washoe County can have more police officers on the road, looking to arrest protect Burners. There is no legal requirement for them to do this, but they have agreed to it on the request of the BLM.

Burning Man organizers have agreed to pay the Washoe County Sheriff’s Office up to $105,000 for the cost of increasing patrols in the northern reaches of the county during the week-long counterculture celebration in the Black Rock Desert.

The Washoe County Commission approved the contract Tuesday, which continues the voluntary commitment by Black Rock City, LLC to share the cost of the law enforcement demands created by more than 65,000 event participants.

Washoe deputies aren’t responsible for law enforcement activities at the event, which is held just across the county line in Pershing County and is jointly patrolled by the Bureau of Land Management and the Pershing County Sheriff’s Office.

But the influx of 65,000 people to the sparsely populated corner of the county means more work conducting patrols and traffic control near Gerlach and on the roads leading to the event.

Under the contract, the sheriff’s office will use the money to pay for the salaries of additional deputies needed in the area, as well as their lodging, daily food expenses and vehicle cost reimbursements.

According to the contract, no state law or local ordinance requires the sheriff’s office to be reimbursed for the costs. But Burning Man as part of its agreement with the BLM agreed to help Washoe County with its law enforcement costs.

[Source: RGJ]

No word yet on if they get to eat the chocotacos, or if those are VIP wristband-only.

I Heart The Eye In The Sky

we be jammin'!

we be jammin’!

Traffic is one of the biggest nightmares at Burning Man. When you finally arrive at the tiny town of Gerlach, Nevada – your last place to stock up on gas and supplies before you hit the Playa – you still have a wait of many hours ahead of you before you get into the event. You will sit in a long line of vehicles in a single lane heading to the event, there is no need to overtake because you’re all going to be waiting for a long time once you get there. Once you turn off the blacktop and onto the dust, you are still miles and hours away from Burning Man. There is a separate area for Will Call, I suggest you keep right if you need to go there but you don’t have to. You have to make it past the inspection checkpoint (people boarding your vehicle and searching it, they won’t search for your drugs, but there are police with drug sniffer dogs walking outside vehicles parked in the line), past the greeters (people making newbies ring a bell and roll in the dust), slowly drive along the access road to the city, then find your camp. Pro tip: the higher the letter of the road, the longer it takes to drive along it. So if you’re camped at 10 & D, it will be faster to drive to A, drive along that to 10, then drive back up to D, than it would be to drive along the outer road of L or M. Speed is limited to 10 MPH on the Gate Road, then 5 MPH for all vehicles in Black Rock City, for dust reasons as well as for safety.

photo credit: Michael Holden

photo credit: Michael Holden

People have been asking us when is the best time to arrive to minimize the hours in the queue. The rules have changed so that the gates open at 10am Sunday now, so there is no historical data to use for this decision. Your guess is as good as mine! Please report back to us with your experiences. We’re @burnersdotme on Twitter, #burners.

This year, BMOrg are making more of an effort to keep the community informed about traffic conditions. Their official radio station, BMIR 94.5, will be broadcasting updates at the top of each hour. You can get the signal before you are near the event from iHeart.com, you can download the iHeartRadio app to your smartphone. You can also follow the traffic on Twitter @BManTraffic.

As well as Burning Man’s own rideshare board, BMOrg have teamed up with commercial ride-sharing companies Zimride and Amovens to facilitate trips. You can also arrive by bus or plane.

From JRS:

customsWant to know what the traffic situation is on Highway 447 or the wait time at the Gate? Beginning Sunday, August 24, we will begin broadcasting hourly traffic reports on BMIR 94.5 at the top of the hour. We’re aggregating real-time traffic information from Nevada Highway Patrol, Nevada Department of Transportation and our eye in the sky (ok, an IP traffic-cam on Poito Peak) to give you up-to-the-minute details on the drive to the event.

BMIR will be streaming via iHeartRadio again this year. You can download the app and tune in on your mobile device before entering the communications dead zones north of Wadsworth and south of Cedarville for a no-snark traffic update. Long wait time? Consider sitting tight until the back up lessens.

Wait? You want more? We’ll also be providing real-time traffic updates via Twitter. Just follow @BManTraffic.

BMIR will also begin reporting Exodus wait times and highway traffic reports onSaturday, Sept. 1 through Tuesday, Sept. 2.

Communication dead zones is an interesting concept. When I went to Juplaya a couple of years ago there was full signal on the Playa, and none of the 6 people in our group noticed any dead zones on the journey from Reno. Not that we were really looking, but it was strange when the same phones and carriers no longer got signal on the Playa later in the year at Burning Man. Do They use that spectrum for different purposes during the event?

black_rock_gerlachThis year the Jackedrabbit recommends Burners get their gas before you get to Gerlach or Empire, to improve traffic for everyone.

The only good solution is for people to gas up in Reno, Fernley, Nixon, Wadsworth or Cedarville. So please, do that.

Love’s Travel Stop in Fernley are open 24 hours and have RV dumping. Not sure about propane though.

The local Paiute Indian tribe have invited us to pass through their Pyramid Lake reservation, and have asked all Burners to please be respectful:

Pyramid Lake Nevada picturesThe Pyramid Lake Paiute Tribe would like to invite all Burning Man travelers to its native and sovereign lands. The Tribe would also like to advise all travelers to SLOW DOWN AND KEEP YOUR DISTANCE while traveling through the Pyramid Lake Paiute Reservation. All of the State Routes on the reservation are two lane roads and the Tribe would like motorists to turn on their headlights during the day and night, and be aware of the dangers associated with high speeds on two lane highways.

Due to the number vehicles traveling to and from the Burning Man Festival, motorists are advised to be extra cautious while traveling on any of the State Routes that run through the reservation. The entire Pyramid Lake Paiute Reservation is an open range area for livestock; motorists are to be cautious of livestock that may be on the highways. While passing though the Tribal communities of Wadsworth and Nixon, the Tribe requests that motorists be cautious of children and courteous to Tribal Members that may attempt to cross the highway, or that are accessing their homes, businesses, or Tribal Services. For more important Burning Man travel information please visit this page.

 

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

and

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

and

Are the passes assigned to a specific vehicle?  

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

and

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.

and

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.