Traffic is the greatest impediment to the growth and sustainability of Black Rock City. Burning Man is under pressure from the Bureau of Land Management and Nevada Department of Transportation to reduce the number of cars entering the event. Highways 447 and 34 are at max capacity during the event and we’re being asked to pay for road damage caused by participant vehicles. Road travel represents 60% of the carbon emissions related to the event.
And the #1 challenge experienced by participants last year? Entry and Exodus.
Clearly, it’s critical we address the traffic issue — and we can only solve this problem by working together as a community. To that end, Burning Man is expanding existing programs and launching new ones to encourage participants to rideshare or take alternative transportation. These programs include:
Our community has always policed itself — and changed its behavior when necessary — through awareness. That’s how we became the largest Leave No Trace event in the world, against seemingly impossible odds. Burning Man will continue pushing this information out into the community throughout the year so we can solve these issues together.
Burner Express exceeded all expectations during its inaugural run in 2013, accommodating 2,459 riders to and from San Francisco and Reno-Tahoe International Airport, and participant feedback about the experience was overwhelmingly positive. This year we will expand the service, increasing capacity to 5,000 riders. Tickets for Burner Express will go on sale in late February … keep an eye out for an announcement of exactly when.
Burning Man hosts a rideshare board that facilitates hundreds of shared rides to the playa annually. We’ve revamped and significantly improved it over the last couple years.
BMIR mobile app and traffic reports
Burning Man Information Radio will be available via mobile apps and will provide “no BS” hourly traffic updates for Highway 447 and Empire, during ingress and Exodus. This will provide participants with timely information on road status and optimum times to travel to or from BRC.
All vehicles entering Black Rock City will be required to purchase a Vehicle Pass for $40. Our goal is to incentivize participants to reduce the number of vehicles entering BRC by increasing the number of participants per vehicle. Vehicle Passes can be purchased when you buy tickets online. There are 35,000 passes available this year. This may change in future years depending on how successful we are at reducing traffic in 2014.
More Arrivals by Air
Arrivals to Black Rock City via our airport have been increasing. In order to allow the increase to continue, we need to work with permitting agencies and air charters to accommodate higher capacities, while continuing to support our established Burner aviator community.
Regional Container Shipping Program
We will continue to encourage regional groups to share the cost of shipping their gear to Gerlach for delivery to the playa. Several Regional groups (including New York, Boston, Washington DC, and Philadelphia) run container programs and Burning Man has an instruction guide on how to coordinate these efforts.
Near-Playa Shipping Container Program
In 2012, the Burning Man organization began renting near-playa shipping containers to theme camps for storage of their infrastructure elements. We will be increasing the space available for containers this year and into the future — the more stuff that comes in large containers means less individual vehicles are required. [UPDATE: We are at maximum capacity for the program now, but will announce on the blog and Jackrabbit Speaks when we’re ready to take new applications for the program.]
Traffic Management in Empire & Gerlach
Burning Man will deploy traffic control flaggers in and around Gerlach (and possibly Empire) to help ensure uninterrupted traffic flow to the event.
FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS
[Update 1/20/13: There is a new, updated FAQ now available, which will be continually updated as new questions and answers come in.]
Q. Who has to purchase a Vehicle Pass?
A. All vehicles coming into the event must have a Vehicle Pass. They can be purchased online when you buy your tickets. There will be an initial allotment made for 35,000 Vehicle Passes.
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.
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). Depending on the success of our existing programs, HOV lanes may be considered for 2015. Burner Express, however, does get HOV priority and doesn’t wait in line.
Q. Do motorcycles have to pay for a Vehicle Pass?
A. To be determined, but not at this time.
Q. Does a tow-behind trailer count as a vehicle for a Vehicle Pass?
A. No. Just your primary driving vehicle.
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.
Q. Aren’t Vehicle Passes just a way to raise money without increasing ticket prices?
A. While this will raise money needed to support the event, including flaggers, equipment and staff for Gate Road to help ensure a more smooth ingress and egress, it’s being implemented to raise awareness and encourage participants to share the cost by sharing room in their vehicles.
Q. How many people rideshare now?
A. According to statistics collected by Traffic Works LLC (a consulting firm paid by Burning Man to study participant traffic in 2013) and the Nevada Department of Transportation, the typical vehicle coming into the event carries 1.9 people. Our goal is to increase that to >2.5 by 2016, and we need your help to reach it!
Q. How do I learn more about Burner Express?
A. See our Burner Express webpage.
Q. How many people used Burner Express last year?
A. Burner Express had 2,459 riders last year – 1,300 going into the event and 1,159 leaving the event. Our goal for 2014 is to increase the total number of riders to 5,000, and to increase that number in future years.
Q. Where do I learn about participating in the near-playa shipping container rentals?
A. Visit http://storage.burningman.com for information, and to get on the waiting list.
Q. How do I learn more about participating in or starting a shipping container delivery program in my region?
A. We hope to take some of the best practices and experiences of those groups coordinating container shipments and making it available to the public this Spring. Watch the Jackrabbit Speaks email newsletter for information to come.
Q. Where can I find a list of air charters servicing Black Rock City?
A. We have a list of the 2013 approved air charter services. A list of 2014 approved carriers will be posted as soon as it is available. As an informed consumer, ask the air charter you choose whether they have been approved for 2014.