Gah! Vehicle Passes Sold Out Before Tickets Did?!

Vehicles on Gate Road, 2010 (Photo by George Post)
Vehicles on Gate Road, 2010 (Photo by George Post)

As part of our multi-pronged effort to reduce the number of vehicles traveling to and from Black Rock City (which is one of biggest challenges Burning Man faces, and a significant risk to the future of our event), we started requiring every vehicle driving into Black Rock City to have a Vehicle Pass (VP) in 2014. The intention of this program is to encourage carpooling.

This year, we reduced the total number of Vehicle Passes we’re making available from 35,000 to 27,000, based on the number of passes that were actually used in 2014 (e.g. 27,000 of them). And since Black Rock City will be the same size this year as last year, there should be plenty of VPs to go around — in fact, people were literally giving them away on Gate Road last year.

So why did VPs sell out before tickets did in the Individual Sale? We analyzed the buying habits and demand for VPs in each of our sales last year and then cross referenced that with actual use. From there we allocated specific amounts to each sale to ensure that every sale would have an appropriate number available and they wouldn’t just all be gobbled up in the earlier sales. As a result, fewer VPs were made available (12,000) in the Individual Sale than tickets (40,000) and some of you were able to purchase a ticket (or two) but not a VP. But the good news is that the ratio of purchases of VPs to tickets was actually really good today — 36,000 tickets were sold before the 12,000 VPs sold out.

If you didn’t get one, please know that you’ve still got options:

  1. Vehicle Passes will be sold in the OMG Sale. In fact, there will be more VPs available than tickets. For those who have not purchased a VP from us yet, there will be an option to register to purchase just a VP — so if you didn’t get a VP in the Individual Sale, you’ll be able to register to purchase one in the OMG Sale.
  2. A lot of folks bought a VP not knowing if they need it or not, and will be looking to offload theirs. Ask around, and keep an eye on the open market for them — they’ll be out there.

And if for some reason you can’t get one, there are alternatives to driving your own vehicle to Burning Man:

  1. Burner Express shuttle buses run from San Francisco, Reno and possibly a third location that has not yet been determined.
  2. Check this out: if you’ve got a bunch of folks looking to ride from your city, you can ask Burner Express to pick you up.
  3. The Burning Man Rideshare Board, which will crank up in the Spring, connects people offering rides with those needing rides — it’s always a good option.
  4. Get information about chartered flights into the Black Rock City airport.

OK so you can feel good about the fact that you’ve secured your ticket. And don’t worry, you’ve got plenty of opportunities to get your transportation sorted out, too.

What If I Don’t Get a Ticket to Burning Man?

BM41252_the Sad Ghost
Don’t despair, little ghost!, 2005 (Photo by Maria Tyomkina)

The Individual Sale is coming up on Wednesday, for those who registered — you DID register right? Well, a lot of you certainly did. Around twice the number of tickets available, in fact. Yep, that’s right … the secret’s out about Burning Man, and the reality is that some of you aren’t going to be able to get a ticket in the Individual Sale.

The size of Black Rock City is relatively stable (peak population at this year’s event is expected to be very close to what it was in 2014) — so while demand for tickets is steadily increasing, the number of available tickets is not. However, if you don’t get a ticket in the Individual Sale, here’s why you shouldn’t despair:

  1. You have a number of other opportunities to get tickets, including through the Secure Ticket Exchange Program (STEP), the OMG Sale in August and the Low Income Ticket Program (which is reserved for those who are in, and can demonstrate, actual financial need).
  2. Historically, many tickets exchange hands among Burners during the summer as people’s plans change. Be patient, get the word out there, stay connected to your Burner community, and one could very well make its way to you.

Some things to consider when purchasing tickets in the open market:

  1. Don’t buy a ticket from someone you don’t know unless you’re certain they aren’t ripping you off (with this much demand, the predators will be out there).
  2. If you purchase a ticket from a stranger, be absolutely sure it’s not a counterfeit before you buy it. (Stay tuned for a post about how to recognize a counterfeit.)
  3. Buying a ticket above face value perpetuates the scalping system. Don’t be part of the problem. Use STEP, or buy from people you know and only pay face value plus fees.

And remember, making it to Black Rock City is not the only way to get your burn fix. There are many official Regional Burns throughout the year, including Nowhere in Spain, AfrikaBurn in South Africa, Israel’s Midburn, Flipside in Austin — there are over 60 Burns happening around the world. Heck, there’s even one in Korea! And these Burns, like the one in Black Rock City, are as amazing as you make ‘em.

Best of luck in the sale, and we hope to see you on playa.

Panel Discussion on Pop-up Urbanism

Burning Man recently hosted a panel discussion on innovative uses of urban space, from temporary parklets and community gardens to maker spaces and pop-up art. If you’re interested in activating your own city in radical ways that don’t necessarily rely on city bureaucracy and established processes, there’s a lot to learn from these folks.

Moderated by Blaine Merker of Gehl Studio and REBAR, with panelists Marc Roth of Learning Shelter and TechShop, Jake Levitas of the Urban Prototyping Festival, Jessica Hobbs of Flux Foundation, and Jay Rosenberg of 49 Farms and Hayes Valley Farm, this event was recorded at Burning Man headquarters in San Francisco in December 2014.

Morris Burner Hotel: A Short Documentary about Burners Transforming Reno

The Morris Hotel in Reno is nothing less than the first Burner hotel in the world. It’s more than 80 years old, and for much of that time, it was dark, dingy, and underutilized. But that all changed when Jungle Jim and his community of Burners got his hands on it.

Now the hotel’s 43 rooms are designed and decorated by artists, and the facility provides space for the practice of the many Burnerly Arts, not the least of which is helping the homeless. The Reno Gazette-Journal has posted an 11-minute documentary on the work they’re doing, which we present here for your viewing pleasure:

(more…)

European Leadership Summit Rocks Amsterdam

Over 100 community leaders from twenty-five nations converged on Amsterdam for the second annual Burning Man European Leadership Summit, February 6-8 in Amsterdam’s historic Beurs van Berlage. Burning Man Regional Contacts, Meta-regionals, event organizers, and headquarters staff joined forces for a fast-paced weekend of teaching, learning, and creative collaboration.

2015-02-07_BM-ELS-day1_022_∏photo-company.nlAfter kicking off the event with a celebratory parade through the streets of Amsterdam (the latest installment in Jan Beddegenoodts’s “Moving Europe” project), participants enjoyed two busy days of panels, workshops, group discussions, and networking.

2015-02-07_BM-ELS-day1_034_∏photo-company.nl

A highlight of the program was a series of talks on art, technology, and culture. Philosopher Alexander Bard introduced the group to syntheism, a model of how atheists can achieve the same feelings of community and awe experienced in theistic religions. Author Yuri van Geest discussed the attributes of what he calls exponential organizations, agile groups that can survive and thrive in periods of rapid change. And the artist Dadara hosted a showcase of his work, which includes celebrated and sometimes controversial on-playa projects such as the Exchanghibition Bank and Like4Real.

2015-02-07_BM-ELS-day1_138_∏photo-company.nlAnother popular offering was a half-day seminar in collaborative creativity hosted by the THNK School of Creative Leadership. Participants were guided through an accelerated cycle of small-group ideation, prototyping, and refinement at the THNK campus, generating a number of actionable projects that people were buzzing about for the rest of the weekend. Back at the Beurs van Berlage, breakout sessions offered in-depth discussion of topics including BWB-style civic projects, leaving no trace, community event production, volunteerism, and conflict resolution, which spilled over into many after-hours discussions of art, culture, collaboration, and the challenges of translating the Burning Man ethos to new languages, cultures, and physical environments.

2015-02-08_BM-ELS-day2_123_∏photo-company.nlThanks to all the conference participants for an amazing weekend, and especially to the Dutch Burners for their gracious welcome and hard work in helping to make this summit a success.

Burners Without Borders Detroit: Homeless Backpack Project

Danielle-Kaltz-Burners-Without-Borders-Detroit-Homeless-Backpack-Project-Impact-Grant-2014-225x300The creative generosity of Burners Without Borders never ceases to amaze. One project in particular, run by the Detroit BWB chapter has gathered enough momentum that you should definitely know about it, in case it inspires you to help out the homeless in your community.

The Burners Without Borders Detroit: Homeless Backpack Project has given away over 1200 backpacks full of water, food, clothes, blankets, and hygiene products to the homeless people of Detroit since it was conceived by Danielle “Doxie” Kaltz in 2008. Their target for this year is to give between 400 and 500 more. It gets cold in Detroit. These people need lots of supplies to survive. This 100% volunteer organization, nearly 100 people strong, is making a major difference for them, making grantors like the Pollination Project into repeat customers.

“It started out of the back of my Jeep,” Doxie says. “In winter 2006/2007 I started to see homeless under the bridges on the highways in Detroit, and it made me realize I had too much stuff. Don’t we all. So I started to fill my car with blankets and food, then I would stop and take items to the people who I started to call the Highway Men. Brave or stupid I realize this, but it was a calling, and I had to do it.”

10846487_10204479782309056_4169549143634316576_n-300x168Then Doxie’s friend, Rosey, asked her family to donate supplies to the Backpack Project instead of giving her Christmas gifts that year, and that’s when Doxie says “the project leveled up.” Rosey had the idea to put the supplies into sturdy backpacks instead of paper or plastic bags. Now nearly 100 volunteers help fundraise, gather supplies, and distribute backpacks. Anew Life Prosthetics and Orthotics has donated office space to the project for storing the supplies and hosting the backpacking events. Best of all, now that other volunteers are helping out, Doxie can now spend more time getting the word out.

“I do have one request of everyone who helps pass out backpacks,” Doxie says, “and that is that they ask the name of the person they are engaging with and that they tell them their name. It is easy for us to ignore homeless as we busy ourselves with our phones or radios or just simply refuse to turn our heads. I hope to humanize the experience as everyone deserves to be acknowledged, and I really do think we can change humanity if we just say ‘hi’ to people, not just homeless, and mean it. Time to bust our bubbles and connect to others.”

You can follow along with Burners Without Borders Detroit on their website or on Facebook.

Photos courtesy of the Pollination Project

What the Heck Happened with Will Call Last Year?

The Box Office, 2014 (Photo by Nimbus)
The Box Office, 2014 (Photo by Nimbus)

Hello! I’m Rebecca Throne, aka nimbus, and I manage Ticketing for Burning Man, including Box Office operations on the playa. 2014 was a tough year for the Box Office, and if you were one of the many people picking up tickets at Will Call you may have had the misfortune of experiencing that firsthand. For some context: the Black Rock City Box Office operates 24/7 for 11 days. In 2014, some participants on five of those days experienced excessive wait times of up to seven hours or more, which is unacceptable by any standard.

What happened?

  • As has been our policy in previous years, all tickets sold through the OMG Sale, STEP, the Low Income Ticket program, and those sold to international participants were held for Will Call pick up at the Box Office. This is in addition to tickets bought in our other sales by those who choose Will Call pick up.
  • In 2014, the Box Office was faced with even more volume than ever. We were able to add some late-season ticket releases, which were all distributed via the Will Call-only channels of STEP and the OMG Sale in August.
  • With the change of ticketing partners in 2014, we had to get up to speed with learning a new system and training the Box Office team, some of which took place onsite.
  • The introduction of vehicle passes in 2014 meant we were handling twice as many physical things, so each transaction took a bit longer.
  • We were understaffed for the flow of tickets and people coming to the Box Office for tickets.

A tremendous amount of information-gathering, research, and strategizing has taken place since the event. In addition to collecting input from community discussions we’ve been monitoring online, we’ve also conducted our own in-depth debrief process, and hosted a cross-departmental forum to gather potential solutions. We’ve gotten a ton of valuable input, and we’ve incorporated much of it into our approach for 2015.

So what are we doing to fix it?

It’s important to understand that there is no single silver-bullet panacea that will fix the problem. Just as the long wait times were a byproduct of numerous systems buckling under increased stress, the approach to solve it will also need to be multi-pronged. Here are a few of the changes we’re working on:

  1. For the first time, you’ll be able to choose to have your STEP and OMG Sale tickets shipped to you. This alone can reduce volume by thousands of orders, and has the potential for the largest impact in reducing overall traffic to the Box Office. We are also investigating alternative shipping options for international ticket buyers.
  2. We are increasing staffing levels at the Box Office. With more people to assist participants, we’ll be able to process more requests in a shorter period of time.
  3. We’re designing a better model for Box Office operations, including changes to our roles, reengineering our training process, and expanding the number of days the Box Office is open to take care of Early Arrivals and staff.
  4. And finally, we’re redesigning our physical infrastructure (adding more windows and shade, implementing some ‘queue theory’ best practices, increasing informational signage, etc.) so it can better handle the load and make for a smoother experience for everyone (it wasn’t fun for us, either!).

While print-at-home tickets has been floated as a possible solution, there are a number of practical reasons we believe this is not the best fit for Burning Man, the most important being our commitment to preventing counterfeiting (there is no way to prevent print-at-home tickets from being photocopied). Other, more cultural reasons, include the fact that gifting physical tickets is a longstanding tradition in our community. We’re positive we can address the Box Office’s challenges without that solution right now, but we will continue to revisit the idea as necessary.

We are learning from our experience in 2014 and making changes in order to get it right in 2015. We’re using this as an opportunity to optimize our systems, and to ensure you have the best possible experience at the Box Office in the future. All told, we hope to cut the number of transactions at the Box Office down by nearly half.

How can you help?

There are a number of things you can do to help both before, and when you arrive, at the Box Office:

  1. If at all possible, have your tickets shipped to you. Choose the delivery option that works best for your travel plans. Last year we expanded our offerings to include UPS 2nd day, which is especially helpful for those traveling long distances who leave home long before the event begins, and have opted for the security of Will Call in the past. This option gives more people the viable option of delivery instead of Will Call.
  2. If you or anyone you know (like somebody in your vehicle, for instance) is expecting to pick up an order from the Box Office, encourage them to be prepared, with their order confirmation and valid legal ID handy. This will speed up processing times.
  3. Join us! We’re greatly increasing our Box Office staff this year. We screen folks heavily for accountability and specialized skillset, and so we frequently rely on personal referrals. If you are looking for a new playa family and have great in-person customer service experience, are savvy using point-of-sale systems, are the epitome of grace under pressure, and/or are a front-of-house ninja, please get in touch with us at boxoffice here: boxoffice (at) burningman.com and fill in/update your volunteer questionnaire to indicate that you want to work with Box Office. (Keep in mind that because we make a significant investment in training people, we require our crew to work a minimum of four 6-hour shifts.)

I hope this helps give a better understanding of what created the situation we faced in 2014 and what we’re doing to address it. Please know that we are keenly aware of the problem, we agree that what happened in 2014 was unacceptable, and we are confident the changes we are implementing will significantly improve the Box Office experience for 2015.

I invite you to leave your thoughts in the comments below – we look forward to reading them and continuing the conversation.

 

“Moving Europe” brings Burning Man art to Amsterdam

moving2Belgian filmmaker, photographer, and art-activist Jan Beddegenoodts brought his Moving Europe project to Amsterdam last week with a spectacular mobile gallery and interactive parade. Participants took to the streets of the old city carrying oversized prints of Burning Man art photos taken by Jan and fellow photographers Thomas Dorn, Sidney Erthal, Scott London, and Gaby Thijsse, accompanied by a brass band, dancers, fire spinners, and no small number of delighted Amsterdammers caught up in the spontaneous celebration.

moving6The event was an apt kickoff for the second annual Burning Man European Leadership Summit, a two-day event bringing together community leaders from twenty-five countries for an intensive weekend of knowledge-sharing, alliance-building, and cultural collaboration.

In the months ahead, Jan and his team will bring the Moving Europe experience to more cities including Riga, Athens, Lisbon, Berlin, and Reikjavic, 2015-02-06_Moving-Europe_136_∏photo-company.nl_-1024x582working with local artists and burners in each country to imbue the event with local flavor and make each parade a unique street party. The Moving Europe team is also compiling video footage for a documentary project, interviewing people of all ages but particularly children and the elderly about their impressions of the show and their dreams for the future.