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.
Can 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.