This was the fourth year for the Gerlach-Empire Shuttle Bus. With a few minor adjustments, we had our smoothest and most enjoyable year yet. One thing we got just right this year was location, location, location. We moved the ticket booth farther from Playa Info and put it directly across from the corner of land where the bus stop has always been (an inherently good place). People did not seem to have any trouble finding us as we were still within 100 yards of Playa Info. And, it sure got easy for us to tell people where the bus would pick them up.
We had about the same number of passengers going into Gerlach as we did in 2002. A few bus runs sold out midday Thursday and Friday, but the passengers were willing to overflow onto later busses. No worries. Even the one bus malfunction we had happened close enough to Gerlach to get the passengers into town. Fortunately, they were all able to get on the next bus, which only took an extra hour. Again, no one seemed put out by it.
This year, we used wristbands as ticket stubs in order to make the in-and-out process more secure. Different-colored wristbands were used each day. Gate personnel removed the wristbands when the bus came back into Black Rock City. This worked out really well because it was impossible for someone to transfer or lose their bus ticket. Passengers were also required to have their Burning Man ticket stub with them when they come back in through the gate (you must have it with you to buy a ticket).
The volunteers we scheduled for the Bus Depot this year were the best yet. Two volunteers were scheduled for each shift, and more actually showed up! Many had volunteered in previous years so they knew the system and even came prepared to make sure everyone had a good time. Costumery, gifts, drink or food, and joviality came with each ticket sale, no extra charge.
This year an additional shade structure was built just outside the ticket booth, and being within sight of the bus stop (which also had shade and benches), it became more of a hangout space while people waited for the bus.
The ticket booth shed that has been used for the last 2 years is a great structure to have, with sliding windows to keep the dust out, but it has no amenities. In response to feedback from volunteers and passengers, in 2004, we will have better counter space for the ticket booth volunteers to work on inside and a shelf to set down bags or wallets for those buying bus tickets on the outside.
Otherwise, we can only hope 2004 goes so well again. In a town where it’s always “Playa Time”, the bus leaves on the hour. Hoo Hoo.
Fred Whitman (aka the Owl)
Burning Man Bus Depot Manager