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.

Your Own Art Car? Wunder’s Rockbox on the Auction Block

by Whatsblem the Pro

Photo: wwardlaw

Photo: wwardlaw

Derek Wunder has been going to Burning Man every year for the last thirteen years; he’s going to miss 2013 because he’s got a baby on the way, due the week of the burn. You may have heard of Derek; if not, you’ve almost certainly seen his art car, the Rockbox: a giant ’80s-style boom box on wheels that holds roughly fifty people as it cruises the playa in search of giant cassette tapes. The Rockbox is twenty-four feet long, built on a 1987 Dodge one-ton van with a 318 V-8 engine, and sports a custom sound system designed for use on the playa.

I noticed this morning that the Rockbox is for sale on Craigslist, so I got in touch with Derek Wunder and asked him about it.


What’s the actual asking price for the Rockbox, Derek? That Laughing Squid article says $5,200, but the Craigslist ad says $13,500.


The price listed on the Craigslist ad is an error; the actual price is $5200 for the car, and $13,500 for the car and the sound system. I’ve also got a triple-axle trailer suitable for hauling the Rockbox, and I’m willing to let that go for $6500. Those prices are a lot less than what I’ve got in it; I’m not even breaking even by selling it, so I’m firm and don’t want to deal with any lowballers. I figure anyone who can’t scrape together my asking price doesn’t have the budget to maintain the car anyway. . . and I want to get it to someone who will give it a good home, and who has the means to bring it to Burning Man this year!


Why are you selling her?


A lot of reasons. . . with an art car of this scale there’s a certain level of commitment you have to put into it to make it work, and I’ve got a baby on the way. Plus, although I’m taking a break from Burning Man this year and my priorities are really focused on being a father at the moment, I do want to move forward and build something new when things settle down a bit. I’m very happy with the Rockbox, and I’d like to see someone take it over and keep bringing it to the playa – in fact, I’m hoping that whoever does buy it will want me to continue to be part of the project, although not this year – but I’m looking ahead and wanting to create something new.

Photo: chednugget

Photo: chednugget


Is there a lot of maintenance involved?


The Rockbox took five people seven months to build back in 2007. We ran it on the playa for four days that year, while it was still under construction. I didn’t do any maintenance to it at all that year and tried to bring it back to Burning Man in ’08 without fussing with it, but kept having mechanical problems. Before bringing it back in 2011, I did three weeks’ worth of preventative maintenance on it and had no breakdowns at all. . . so you do have to be diligent about doing some maintenance, but it’s really not that bad at all, and is easier if you do it sooner rather than later.

We never finished the lighting system due to budget and time constraints so we did a lot of daytime cruises in 2011. It lights up a lot better now than it ever has out on the playa!

You definitely have to be into working on the thing rather than just wanting to drive it around on the playa. There’s more to it than just driving it, and the biggest challenge is getting it home again when Burning Man is over.


Sure. We could have put a man on the Moon in the ’50s, but getting him back again would have been a problem.


Right. You need the resources to handle whatever unexpected thing might come up out there.


Is it hard to drive? Obviously it’s not street-legal, right?


It’s not legal on public roadways at all.

Driving it is not that tough; you can even DJ while you drive the car if you really think you have to, although I don’t recommend it. Backing up takes a spotter or two, but I have a camera system I’ve been meaning to install to allow the driver to see what’s behind the car, and I could throw that in on the deal.


Tell me about your next project.


I had the idea for the Rockbox in 2004, and came up with the idea for the new project – the Smiling Conundrum – at the same time. It’s a large-scale dicycle car with 12-foot steel wheels. One of the wheels has a big smiley face painted on it; the other has a frowny face, so it looks happy or sad depending on if it’s coming or going. It’s about halfway done right now, but I’ve got it on a back burner with everything else that isn’t a baby.

I started building the Smiling Conundrum with a gas-powered motorcycle engine, but decided to go electric with it instead. . . so it didn’t make it to the playa in 2010 because going electric meant rebuilding the drive train.

When it’s finished, it’ll be solar-powered, with an onboard gas-powered generator for emergency backup, and will also be capable of accepting a charge from grid power.


I hope to see it out there, and you with it. Thanks for talking with me; good luck with the new baby you’ve got coming.


My pleasure, thank you.

Image: Derek Wunder

Image: Derek Wunder

Image: Derek Wunder

Image: Derek Wunder

Image: Derek Wunder

Image: Derek Wunder

RUN, IT IS RISEN! A Burning Man Easter Story


by Whatsblem the Pro

On Good Friday, we reported that art car favorite El Pulpo Mecanico would be scrapped. Three days later on Easter Sunday, El Pulpo artist/designer Duane Flatmo commented on that article:

“The idea to decommission El Pulpo Mecanico has changed. El Pulpo Mecanico was in need of a newer, more reliable lower vehicle and a better, more precise fire system. We had decided to build something new in this process. Now after an overwhelming and heartwarming response, we have decided to bring her back this year with an even more detailed and beautiful transformation. El Pulpo Mecanico will be at BM 2013 after all. See you there and thanks!”

It’s a miracle! is proud to present:

A Burning Man Easter Story

For El Pulpo Cosmico so loved the world, that It gave Its only begotten Hatchling, that whosoever come too close to It should perish in everlasting flames. For El Pulpo Cosmico sent not Its Hatchling into the world to bore the world with tedium; but that the world through It might be delighted. (John 3:16-17)

And Its disciples went forth, and came into the City, and found It at the Embarcadero as It said unto them: and they made ready for the show. (Mark 14:16-17)

And as It did terrify the crowd and fill them with awe, El Pulpo Mecanico crushed an automobile, and blessed and broke it, and gave to them, saying, “Take, eat; this is my body.” And It took the 55-gallon drum of petroleum distillates, and when It had given thanks, It gave it to them: and they all drank of it. And It said unto them, “This is my blood of the new testament, which is shed for many. Verily I say unto thee, I will drink no more of the fruit of the refinery, until that day that I drink it new in the kingdom of my Father. (Mark 14:22-25)

Then the policemen of the Mayor took El Pulpo Mecanico into the common garage, and gathered unto It the whole band of mechanics. And they stripped It, and put on It a scarlet tarpaulin.

And when they had platted a crown of barbed wire, they put it upon Its head, and a beer in Its right tentacle; and they bowed the knee before It, and mocked It, saying Hail King of the Cephalopods! And they spit on It, and took the beer away, and smote It on the head. And after that they had mocked It, they took the tarpaulin off from It, and put Its own raiment on It and led It away to dismantle It. (Matthew 27:27-31)

And as they led It away, they laid hold upon one Flatmo, an Humboldtian, coming out of the country, and on him they laid the fuel bill, that he might bear it after El Pulpo Mecanico. And there followed It a great company of people and women, which also bewailed and lamented It. (Luke 23:26-27).

And when they were come to the place, which is called Arcata Scrap & Salvage, there they dismantled It, and the malefactors, one on the right tentacle, and the other on the left. Then said El Pulpo Mecanico, “Father forgive them; for they know not what they do.” (Luke 23:33-34)

Then the mechanics, when they had dismantled El Pulpo Mecanico, took Its parts, and made four piles, to every wrench monkey a pile; and also Its upper body. Now the upper body was without flaw, sturdy from the top throughout. They said therefore among themselves, “Let us not scrap it, but cast lots for it, whose it shall be: that the Scripture might be fulfilled, which saith, They parted me out among them, and for my superstructure they did cast lots.” These things therefore the mechanics did. (John 19:23-24)

And it was about the sixth hour, and there was darkness over all the land until the ninth hour. And the Sun was darkened, and the vail of the temple was rent in the midst. And when El Pulpo Mecanico had cried out with a loud voice, It said, “Father, into thy many prehensile arms I commend my spirit,” and having said thus, It gave up the ghost. Now when Flatmo saw what was done, he glorified El Pulpo Cosmico, saying, “Certainly this was a righteous art car.” (Luke 23:44-47)

When the even was come, there came a rich man of Australia named Zos, who also himself was El Pulpo Mecanico’s disciple: He sent his emissary to Flatmo, and begged the body of El Pulpo Mecanico for a reasonable price. Then Flatmo responded not, and the body was not delivered. He wrapped it instead in a clean linen cloth, and laid it in his own new tomb, which he had hewn out in the rock: and he rolled a great stone to the door of the sepulchre, and departed. (Matthew 27:57-60)

And Whatsblem the Pro and all of Facebook beheld where he was warehoused. (Mark 15:47)

And very early in the morning, the Sunday of that week, they came unto the sepulchre at the rising of the Sun. And they said among themselves, “Who shall roll us away the stone from the door of the sepulchre?” And when they looked, they saw that the stone was rolled away: for it was very great. And entering into the sepulchre, they saw a young man sitting on the right side, clothed in a greasy coverall; and they were affrighted. And he saith unto them, “Be not affrighted: ye seek El Pulpo of Humboldt, which was dismantled: It is risen; It is not here: behold the place where they scrapped It. But go your way, tell Its disciples and all of Facebook that It goeth before you into Black Rock City: there shall ye see It, as It said unto you. (Mark 16:2-7)


Duane Flatmo just sent me this sneak peek of El Pulpo’s new front end!

Photo: Duane Flatmo

Photo: Duane Flatmo