On the heels of the 2011 event, which saw a record population and some of the longest wait times anyone had experienced to get into and out of Black Rock City, the Gate, Perimeter and Exodus department focused its energy on addressing traffic issues at Burning Man. We began the 2012 season with making “traffic” a new buzzword across the organization, creating a Traffic Workgroup and enlisting multiple departments in the plan to mitigate Burning Man’s traffic woes.
The difference between the 2011 and 2012 ingress and egress was remarkable. We primarily attribute this significant change to:
- memories of the long wait times in 2011 inspired many participants to leave on days other than Sunday and Monday of Exodus;
- we implemented a PR campaign to educate participants about traffic and how they could help;
- we created the Gate Area Radio Station to broadcast information about getting in and out of BRC (thank you for tuning in!);
- increased planning and staff allowed us (along with the Greeters) to process people more quickly into the event on opening night;
- participants spread out their arrival and departure times in a fairly balanced way. Though we were prepared to run extended Pulsing operations on Sunday and Monday, we never fully implemented it because the backup was not long enough.
In addition to the measures listed above, we also added flagging operations in Gerlach to address safety concerns during peak times of both ingress and egress. On Saturday of pre-event weekend we placed highway flaggers along Hwy 447 before the railroad tracks and Gerlach gas station in order to separate gas station traffic from through traffic in Gerlach. While it accomplished the safety goals we were hoping for, it added to the highway backup, so we worked closely with Washoe County Sheriffs to rejig the operation. For safety reasons we cannot let traffic backup on the highway when the gas station reaches capacity, so we had to force all traffic to continue through Gerlach once the station reached capacity. Our Gerlach flagging operations during Exodus were successful.
We appreciate everyone’s efforts in easing traffic congestion. Now, we just need to repeat this in 2013, especially the part where participants spread out their arrivals and departures! We will be continuing our PR campaign on this issue. In 2012 we hired a traffic engineer to evaluate our operations, and we will be implementing some changes on the basis of his report in 2013 and beyond. While the Traffic and Exodus team works hard to make everybody’s exit as smooth and safe as possible, the reality remains that we all have to travel home via a rural Nevada highway. There is a limit to how fast we can move cars onto the highway and through Gerlach. We are continuing to look at radical solutions to solving traffic and Exodus issues, and each year we will be asking all Burners to engage and participate in the process.
The Gate opened at 6pm on Sunday August 26th, as stated in Burning Man’s Special Recreation Permit with the BLM. As in prior years, some participants showed up prior to the opening time. This continues to present challenges as we work to avoid the local towns and highways becoming overwhelmed with traffic. We again implemented an early “staging lot” as a place to stack vehicles that arrived prior to opening. Most of these folks had not read our communications in the JRS and Survival Guide warning that the process of being staged prior to opening results in getting into the event later than if they showed up on time (we have to give priority to the traffic coming off of the highway after opening in order to keep it moving). We plan to broaden and increase our communications around entry issues in 2013.
After a busy year in 2011, we increased Perimeter staffing in 2012, which allowed for better coverage across the closure area. In addition to catching those attempting to enter BRC by less than honorable means, we also provided medical assistance to people unrelated to the event and interacted with locals and visitors curious about what was happening inside the fence line. We saw another successful year with good coordination with BLM Rangers.
With tickets selling out prior to the event, there were no tickets for sale at the main entrance. As a result, non-ticketed individuals were asked to leave the event site, and those trying to sneak in faced citation by law enforcement. Those caught harboring stowaways or aiding in closure order violations faced having their tickets voided and/or being cited.
In preparation for five weeks of operations (longer than in prior years), our Volunteer Coordination Team worked tirelessly all year to recruit more volunteers. We added 141 new people to our department, increasing our staff to nearly 450 people. Our Mentors kicked it into high gear to improve and increase the training and mentoring program to ensure all of our new volunteers were prepared for their first shifts. Our Support Services Crew, tasked with delivering food, transporting staff, and generally taking care of our volunteers, worked 24 hours a day for several weeks.
We wish to extend appreciation to the Gate, Perimeter, and Exodus staff for their hard work and dedication to getting the job done under any circumstances and in any conditions, especially those who return year after year to do it all again.