Exodus limits and carpooling

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bradtem
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Exodus limits and carpooling

Post by bradtem » Sat Sep 22, 2007 1:34 am

We're reaching a limit, not simply of people, but of vehicles that can reasonably exit the city in 1-2 days. 4 hour waits at 7:30am Monday? 2.5 hour wait at 8pm. I'm sure there are many stories.

The only answer -- other than more dramatic answers involving discouraging more people from coming -- seems to be some form of carpooling/transit to the playa to reduce the number of vehicles if not the number of people. (This was in fact the only meaningful way to be green this year, since 90% or more of the environmental impact of the event is just getting there.)

Of course, to Burning Man, 2 or even 3 is not a carpool. That's pretty normal. More like 7, the full capacity of a minivan or RV, or a bus.

There are a few interesting ways that carpooling could be strongly encouraged.

If we don't do something like this, we'll have to take other steps to exclude people from Burning Man, beyond just making it remote, harsh, expensive and unadvertised.
  • A carpool lane for entry and exodus. Be a big enough carpool and bypass those long lines. That can easily be a combined saving of 7 hours of many people's time.

    Have cheaper tickets for people and require a ticket for the vehicle as well. Instead of a $250 ticket per person, make it $200 per person plus $200 per vehicle, breaking even at 4 per vehicle. Or similar formula designed to be revenue neutral.

    Bus service to and from Fernley or similar place, for burners who don't have to carry a lot of stuff. Gate/Greeters at the Fernley parking lot, so bus drives right into city, bypassing gate line, and exodus line too. Well worth it just for the saved time if you don't have much stuff or can get your stuff in your camp's truck.
Not that for exodus carpool, it is actually sufficient to declare any car that came in as a carpool (where gate people can easily count as they take tickets) gets to be an exit carpool, even if they don't carry as many out. They did their part reducing vehicles coming in, give them a magic exodus card. Let them gift that card if they wish to, even.

Want to get really technical? Gate can check IDs to count only those who live in the same state as the vehicle, since picking up those who flew in does not actually remove nearly as many vehicles from the playa -- these folks already routinely carpool, I've picked up some from the burner hostel, and this is about further reducing cars, not about being "fair." But I don't think we need to go this far.

If there were sufficient gate/greeting volunteers, you could even put one on the bus from I-80, and have tickets taken and greetings given while on 447. Then it's a burning man party bus even before you get to the playa. Your playa starts 4 hours sooner. The downside is that without enough suitable volunteers, you would have to send one back on each bus, wasting their time.

(Not much we can do about how inefficient it is to move people one-way by bus, with an empty bus going back. However, it might make sense to have the main bus stop in Gerlach -- thus never getting dusty -- and switching to some number of vans which then go to the various quadrants of the city to drop off the passengers.)

Of course, more organization of shared trucks would be a big plus.

Note that most of this need not be done by the BMOrg. All they have to do is the bless the carpoolers with a carpool lane or the modified ticket prices and the community would do the rest to organize the carpools. Possibly burners could even arrange the buses as a business (gasp) -- I think many would pay well for a bus ticket that saves them 7 hours by going in the carpool lanes.

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Post by theCryptofishist » Sat Sep 22, 2007 2:52 am

This is all very sweet, but

What about people's stuff!!!!

How are they going to pack their costumes, their shade structures, their camp kitchen and food, if all the room in the back seat of the sedan is taken up by other people?


It might be interesting to hear from gate and exodus people about how much wasted space t hey see in vehicles entering and exiting the event.
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Post by Toolmaker » Sat Sep 22, 2007 3:46 am

How many times have you worked exodus and in what capacity?

I don't know shit about it and amazed that they manage they way they do.

Great job exodus peeps!

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Post by AntiM » Sat Sep 22, 2007 5:32 am

Hmmmm, devil's advocate here, and from a purely self-centered position:

Our big trailblazer will hold five bodies, but that's tight, plus it makes for a lot of gear to haul, even with the trailer and the topper. If I have an art installation, well, there goes the extra room for passenger stuff.
Our primary vehicle IS our "camp's truck." We do have a fuel efficient Scion, which seats four, you can cram a week-end's worth of camp gear into it if you only carry two or three. Not suitable for B-Man unless we're using it as an auxillary vehicle. (It has been to the playa, it's a little low and kills jackrabbits. Blam! Two of them last July)

While most of the folks I know with buses are nice folks and they do carry loads of people and stuff, honestly? The maintenance and loading of such vehicles scares the pee right outta me. Had a friend who rode out on one once, and begged for a ride back with us. The bus was badly loaded, overweight, and got pulled over by the HP for being a hazard.

So, green or safe? Carpool to what extent I can, or surrender my independence and scheduling to the whims of others? Hours in Exodus or blaze by in a vehicle whose driver I don't know well? I'm sorry, I'm married to a professional driver, him I trust behind the wheel for long hauls.

And are the carpool buses non-smoking?

What you're proposing will consume many man-hours and create an entire new set of volunteer positions. Are you first in line?

447 is not on BLM property, there's a whole can of worms to be addressed. Whose property will you greet on? How will the greeters feel about being so far away from the event?

Cheaper tickets for carpoolers? Our plans change constantly each year as people join us and then back out. We'd not have broken even on what you suggested.

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Post by dragonfly Jafe » Sat Sep 22, 2007 6:18 am

...obviously the only solution is to pave Jungo road and have 2 exodus lines.
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Post by AntiM » Sat Sep 22, 2007 7:18 am

People-mover?

(do they still have one of those in MouseWorld?)

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Post by EspressoDude » Sat Sep 22, 2007 8:47 am

Another idea:

Since the exodus line is moving so slow, sell tickets for next year in the line.

Those tickets will then be honored on the high speed exodus line.
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Post by Badger » Sat Sep 22, 2007 11:17 am

The only answer --
That's a no-starter right there.
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The only answer

Post by bradtem » Sat Sep 22, 2007 12:04 pm

This one is just math. The road can only handle so many vehicles. We can improve the exodus experience and do many other things, but the road capacity is the road capacity. ("Answers" such as paving other roads, or getting Nevada DOT to close the opposite lanes during exodus are for now, unworkable.

There are some other answers such as pushing departure to the middle of the night, but I'm not sure that's the safest approach. And this has nothing to do with how hard working the exodus crew is. As it's been explained to me, they aren't the bottleneck, it's the blacktop section from the playa entrance to Empire. (And possibly the turn onto the blacktop.) Burning Man's own figures report that as being about 500 cars/hour, I'm told.

If that's really the case, eventually you hit a wall on the number of vehicles, and you don't get a lot of choices. You can reduce the number of vehicles via carpooling, you can reduce the number of vehicles by reducing the number of burners, or the vehicles have to leave at other times than they want to leave now.

I'm not trying to be confrontational, just engaging in discussion about how a community might find solutions. If you don't think we've hit the wall yet, you have to agree we hit it sometime as we grow. Perhaps bigger numbers would turn the Nevada DOT to more cooperation.

And as for having a lot of stuff, if that's the case -- and it certainly applies to me, I bring tons of stuff -- then you could not carpool as effectively, obviously. That's just a fact of life, not an argument against carpooling. I've given rides to and from the playa to many people who had little enough stuff that they could carry it. There are such people, usually they are relying on other things they need coming in camp trucks etc.

Or maybe we really can't cut the number of vehicles, in which case we hit that limit sooner than later.

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Post by Kinetik V » Sat Sep 22, 2007 1:21 pm

Public input is nice but this situation calls for professional engineering by people who make their living handling these things. To say that carpooling is the only viable solution reflects a biased mindset and one that hasn't totally grasped the big picture. There are in fact several other viable options and IMHO it's going to take a mixed approach to resolve this.

Paving Jungo Road? There ain't a snowball's chance in hell of that happening in the next 10 years barring massive changes or pork barrel politics coming into play. We'll see Alaska's Bridge to Nowhere get built first.
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I didn't say the only solution

Post by bradtem » Sat Sep 22, 2007 2:40 pm

Don't want to get into a battle of semantics, I apologize for writing it in a way people felt sounds like a declaration of certainty, but what I wrote was that carpooling seems to be the only answer. I really wasn't trying to make an absolute declaration, so please ignore your initial impression that I was trying to tell people what the answers are, and I hope we can then discuss what sort of solutions might exist. Including if folks want to make the case that there's no capacity limit worth worrying about, or that there are other ways to handle it.

Mostly I'm interested in what ideas people might have for the community dealing with this concern. Other than the suggestion of the creation of carpool lanes (under whatever criteria people might propose for what a carpool is) this is somewhat orthogonal to other matters of exodus procedure, since the bottleneck is not, as far as I know, on the playa.

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Post by MikeVDS » Sat Sep 22, 2007 7:35 pm

You make it sound like carpooling or artificially limiting the number of people is the only answer or we will all be doomed. If it does become an actual problem then it will naturally limit the number of people who return. Problem solved. If the BMorg wants to expand more they'll have to decide to move elsewhere or come up with their own plan. I, for one, pack as much stuff and people per vehicle as I can. It just makes sense. This year it happened to be me and one other and tons of crap for camp. We barely made it up some of the hills. Most others I know are in the same boat, so I don't think anything can change there.

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Limiting the number

Post by bradtem » Sat Sep 22, 2007 7:48 pm

No, we're not all doomed. And a lot of people who have gone in the exodus line (I try to avoid it whenever I can, but the old times for avoiding it did not work this year) would say there is already an "actual problem."

I am not sure what artificially limiting the number of people is, unless you mean just capping tickets. Everything done is artificial, and there are many strategies already in use that limit the number of people by encouraging some and discouraging others, including the remoteness and harshness of the location to start, which one may consider "natural" but also the ticket prices that increase through time, the cutoff of gate sales after Thursday, the restrictions on the press, the sale only of full week tickets when 1/3+ of the city for whatever reasons only comes for a few days. (Under the old permit, BMOrg was charged per participant per day, but the new permits are based on total population.)

Anyway, I'm not saying I disapprove of policies designed to discourage weekenders, but one should not imagine that there are not already many efforts to tune the demographic, and that there won't be more.

Again, whatever you felt I meant by saying that carpooling seems to be the only solution, please accept my apology for phrasing in a way that did not make it clear that what I was interested in talking about are whatever solutions people have in mind.

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Post by MikeVDS » Sat Sep 22, 2007 9:14 pm

Giving more advantages for people who carpool doesn't make sense, when in many cases it punishes the people who bring in the supplies for the event.

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Bring in supplies

Post by bradtem » Sat Sep 22, 2007 9:33 pm

Yes, I was thinking that as well, at least for the financial penalty approach. Of course, if it is to be done, then you do need a means of enforcing it that's not too much of a burden. You could, for example, not charge vehicles laden with stuff, but that means a judgement call on the gate folks on what that means. Ideally you come up with an objective criterion. I thought about "no empty seats" but I don't want to encourage people to come in unladen 2-seater pickup trucks just to be carpools under that definition.

However, also realize that right now the alternative is for everybody to wait a long time getting out (and even in), and I don't think the carpool lane would add more than a modest time to the wait of those not in it, unless it became too popular. So you tune it so it's 5% of vehicles, but removes 10% of vehicles that would otherwise come, or something similar. So the reality is that if it works right, then everybody, even the trucks not in the carpool lane, are getting out faster than they would if there were no carpool lane.

This is how carpool lanes work on the highways. Some people look at them and see they are much sparser than the solo lanes, and grumble at the wasted highway capacity they think the sparse lane represents. But the carpool lanes are actually carrying more people per hour (sparsely) than the solo lanes are (densely) and they're reducing traffic on the whole road. The only "unfair" part is that people who would have carpooled anyway (ie. didn't need the incentive) zoom ahead of you, so you feel bad. You're actually ahead, but you don't realize it.

But yes, it might make it harder to get somebody to drive the laden truck when they could join the camp carpool instead. One way around that would be a convoy rule. A van with 8 people followed by a truck filled with 2 people and stuff could get both of them in the carpool lane -- easy to do if arriving together, but actually possible if the truck arrives later (leave carpool card at a will-call) but hard if the truck arrives first (as is not uncommon.)

However, I think the simpler the better, even though that may not be as fair. The main goal (and I realize some dispute we need to worry about this yet) is something that encourages fewer vehicles to come, so that everybody in the exodus and gate lines benefits. Then worry about how to make the benefits more fair.

(We do this in regular carpool lanes, where a parent with their small child counts as a carpool even though they are clearly not removing a car from the road. They just don't want to argue about a fairer rule, which would be something like 2 licensable drivers etc. Not that I want to get into that, I am just using it as an example.)

But suggestions on how to make it simple and fair are welcome, as well as totally different ideas.

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Post by playasnake » Sat Sep 22, 2007 9:52 pm

even carpooling wont scale at a certain event size... and i know plenty of SUVs that end up being 2 seaters by the time all the junk is in them at the end of the event.

as someone pointed out earlier... its all about the road capacity.... which is maxed.

got a problem with exodus... leave on tuesday or friday.

exodus has been a mess for at least the last 5 years... and no fault to the exodus crew.

what we really need is something fun to do for those 4 hours. i got so bored i walked the whole thing last year. hopped in a bunch of cars... met a bunch of people. had a blast. it took 3 1/2 hours.

the year prior i left at 9pm on monday and got to reno 45 minutes after my campmates who left at 4.

if youre like to play with the numbers:

and you assume 45000 people... at an assumed car density of 3 per car (my guess its that the density is lower... but anyway)

assume that 1/2 the event leaves in the same 24 hour period

so thats 7500 cars in a 24 hour period. or 312.5 cars an hour (you can already see where this is going)

5.2 cars per minute or 1 car every 11.5 seconds.

apparently actual exodus was running at about 1 car every 5 seconds... but thats still only 720 cars an hour.
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Leaving other times

Post by bradtem » Sat Sep 22, 2007 10:11 pm

Clearly telling people to leave before the burn isn't satisfactory, though in fact more people are doing it. Sunday has become more like Monday (and I don't mean the 1998 Monday when the Man burned Sunday night.) Yes, leaving Tuesday is a way to avoid exodus bottlenecks, but of course there are just too many for whom that will not be an option (the employed, mostly) and leaving at 4am isn't workable for many as well, nor particularly safe considering how drained and sleep-deprived you tend to be after the Burn.

That's why you can't take the car rate for 24 hours. Though I would be curious to see if anybody on Exodus crew kept stats of flow or delays based on various times. As noted, in the past 7am departures have always been swift, as have late Monday departures, but this is no longer so, and the margins will keep shrinking.

Yes, I have done many things in Exodus line, including handing out ice cream to people (they go nuts) and taking panoramic photos and the like. It's more fun than sitting there but being in the city for 5 hours and leaving swiftly would be even more fun than waiting 5 hours in the line.

But whether you think we've hit the wall now or not, we'll hit it some day. And maybe you will be right and it will spread out to Tuesday. Or, like the joke, we'll burn the man another day earlier. (Larry may regret putting in that joke in the entry signs this year.)

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Little extra room in cars

Post by Otisserie » Sat Sep 22, 2007 10:15 pm

You seem to think that there are a bunch of people driving up empty or nearly empty cars that can be encouraged to carpool. I can tell you from working the gate that almost all the cars and trucks coming through are absolutely crammed full of people and supplies.

The only exception is RVs. There are a fair number of large RVs that come through with 2, 3 or 4 people in them. Limiting RVs would probably do some modest good towards reducing the exodus lines since they are just so damn big and slow. I'm not sure what limiting approach would work, however. Adding an RV tax of some type would probably not discourage many; an RV is already a really expensive way to do BM, adding a couple hundred dollar tax would have little effect. One person suggested selling a limited number of RV tickets, and maybe that would work; but the first year you do that will be hell. I guarantee you a few hundred unticketed RV drivers will show up at the gate and scream bloody murder when they are denied entrance.
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Re: Leaving other times

Post by theCryptofishist » Sat Sep 22, 2007 10:26 pm

bradtem wrote:Yes, leaving Tuesday is a way to avoid exodus bottlenecks, but of course there are just too many for whom that will not be an option
Plus that's a sticking point with the BLM.
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Re: Little extra room in cars

Post by theCryptofishist » Sat Sep 22, 2007 10:27 pm

Otisserie wrote:You seem to think that there are a bunch of people driving up empty or nearly empty cars that can be encouraged to carpool. I can tell you from working the gate that almost all the cars and trucks coming through are absolutely crammed full of people and supplies.
That was my guess. Thank you for the first person observation.
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No, don't think cars are empty

Post by bradtem » Sat Sep 22, 2007 10:30 pm

No, I certainly don't think cars are empty. I have not worked gate but I've watched enough of it to know that's not true. I was thinking, as you suggest, of RVs (which tend to be able to legally carry 6 to 8, and their gear if not already loaded with camp supplies) but really I was thinking of encouraging the deliberate use of large vans and buses.

I don't think this is easy. I know that often my own efforts to carpool have been foiled by the fact that almost all of us are notoriously bad at predicting when we will be loaded and ready to go. You don't want to offer a friend a ride and end up 12 hours late. Likewise, if you are catching a ride and you end up very late, you either delay them, or miss the ride, or both.

A few times when I've had an RV, I've stopped at the Reno burner hostel and picked up as many as 4 folks, and it's good as you get to meet some folks in advance but alas, these people don't have cars, so it's only removing a vehicle from the city if they would otherwise have rented, which some would have done.

However, I'm bringing this up because I do see a need to do something to reduce the vehicle count, and carpooling is the main thing that springs to mind. I first started thinking about it when I realized that it was the only green thing one could do this year in line with the theme. While we used RVO biodiesel in our camp to supply 1,000 people with power and that's great, it was just a tiny fraction of the fuel all those people consumed to get to and from the playa, and that was mostly not green fuel.

I've imagined other things, like a burning man train (which would be a great party even before it got to the playa) but the word is that the railway is impossible to deal with and I think that track runs E-W meaning the trip would be a long one.

But perhaps it will all work out. It's a mystery.

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Post by barnz » Sat Sep 22, 2007 10:32 pm

Here's a half-baked idea. How about Exodus in the style of walk-in restaurant seating? Yes, it's another layer of infrastructure, but if they can do it at the local pizza joint, I'm guessing we can handle it, too. (mmm, pizza.)

What I mean is simply that when we're ready to go, we request a spot in line. An exodus volunteer tells us how long the wait is and when to come back. We get a deli counter number and come back later. (More like a grouping than an exact number). When your group is up, you turn in your number and you're good to go. Nobody gets out without a number, and if you miss your group, you're back to the end of the line. (Or, like at the pizza place, they "see what they can do.")

Like I said this is half-baked. (mmmm, half-baked pizza...) But couldn't it help?
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Not about exodus

Post by bradtem » Sat Sep 22, 2007 11:20 pm

I proposed similar systems to that a couple of years ago. Nobody was that enthused yet. You can find threads about it here, or on my blog with more recent updates. The resulting system is pretty complex but boils down to "Follow the instructions and map on this card" which makes it simple for the exiter.

However, I didn't want this thread to be about the management of exodus itself, which deserves its own thread, and has had several threads about this topic and others. I wanted to focus on whether we can reduce the number of cars, because no matter how we manage exodus, more cars means more issues.

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Post by mdmf007 » Sun Sep 23, 2007 9:09 pm

Jungo road doesnt need paving - If you go straight east from BM you can take the road right onto the playa. I do it every year, and am in Winnemucca from my camp on monday in 90 minutes. I say open Jungo so people can leave straight from BM, - not my call though. On the other hand I like it the way it is, as I can get out of there relatively wuick as it is now.

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Jungo

Post by bradtem » Sun Sep 23, 2007 9:32 pm

I don't know the reality of Jungo, but I know that the "official" word on Jungo is that it's dangerous and flat tires and breakdowns are common on it. Whether the official word is true or not, as long as that is the official word, they probably won't open it, as they wouldn't want responsibility for rescuing people who get their vehicle disabled along that road. But yes, if you could exit the playa onto that it would reduce traffic. Indeed, the southern exits from the playa might also be able to help.

I've heard different reports about what the true bottleneck is. Sometimes I hear it's the road from the playa entrance to Gerlach. Sometimes I hear it's Gerlach itself where a lot of people pull off etc. Sometimes I hear it's Empire where there is commonly a jam in front of the store. And finally I have also seen it reported as simply being 447 itself all the way to Nixon. (After Nixon it splits in two, and if you are in thick traffic it's wise to take the scenic Pyramid way back road to Sparks.)

Some of these reports suggest it would be good to let those going north to Alturas leave in their own line, or at least nice for them. (One year this was me.) If it's the road to Gerlach that won't help. If it's the road to Gerlach getting short burst closures for 45 minutes of each hour so both lanes can be used would help a lot but apparently the locals would protest too much, possibly with good reason. Though emptying the playa faster would help them in general.

Or it may be a combination with no easy fix. One key factor is that stop and go can really drop a lane capacity. Down to half for a highway lane. So if you can design systems to avoid stop and go, such as stressing no stop in Gerlach Empire, it could help, but of course the local businesses might not be so excited. (Perhaps the kid's car wash, the bike drop-off and others could locate along the road to Alturas, and those wanting to stop would turn right there, but good luck re-merging after turning back.)

The efforts to get a flagger at the playa entrance to get people not to stop before the left turn (in spite of their instincts) have helped a lot, I think.

Now all of this is after we leave the playa. If you want a thread for what goes on on-playa (Exodus procedures) that might be worth starting. We usually get a few of those every year.

But in the end, the road capacity has a limit, and we're on the way towards it.

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Post by somekind » Sun Sep 23, 2007 9:58 pm

Apply for a State HOV lane for vehicles with 4 or more. CHP can hang out and give 254$ tickets to violators.
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Post by Desert Dove » Mon Sep 24, 2007 9:59 am

I haven't read every single post in this long and rambling thread but I did want to say that I actually enjoy the wait in the exodus line. It gives me and my passengers time to share our individual experiences from the week, talk about what we forgot to bring versus what we didn't need to bring, and plan what we want to create for BM next year. We spent a lot of time laughing....listened to some great music....even shared some fine conversation with vehicles on either side of us, which were constantly changing. Essentially, we continued the burn all the way out to the highway...without the drinking, of course.

DD

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Ugly Dougly
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Post by Ugly Dougly » Mon Sep 24, 2007 10:53 am

The future of Burning Man:

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robbidobbs
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Post by robbidobbs » Mon Sep 24, 2007 11:10 am

Having worked f/t Exodus 3 years in a row, and DPW Donation Station every year since, I would say to anyone complaining about managing Exodus, that they should volunteer.

No really. Put your money where your mouth is.

Every year I witness the same phenomenon: everyone wakes up early Monday, packs, and then try to leave at once. The vehicles are packed to the roofs and everyone's tired. Tie-downs are done poorly and agro-urban tempers flare. Leaving later on Monday afternoon rather than fight to leave in the morning is prudent. Traffic lightens up the later you get. Spend the time doing your 2 hours of mooping.

If you just view Exodus as part of your BM experience and not some trama to get through, it could be a lot more fun.

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On-playa

Post by bradtem » Mon Sep 24, 2007 11:33 am

I welcome a thread on on-playa exodus.

Yes, you can enjoy yourself at Exodus, but you can also enjoy yourself with more time in Black Rock City or be more productive with more time mooping. It's nice to spin the positive part of exodus, but a wild assed-guess suggests that we're talking about 2-3 hours of time for 25,000 people at least. That's 32 people full-time for a year. (What's the number of paid full time staff of BMOrg now?)

Has somebody actually charted a graph to get a better idea of what that number is? It changes every year. While the advice to leave late monday afternoon used to be good advice (and has been the most common time for me to leave) it did not work this year, and I don't think it was just the storm.

One question I have for somebody who worked exodus early in this decade is, what was the result of the staging lot system they used, I think around 2000 or 2001. In this system cars gathered in staging lots, turned off their engines, waited and partied, and then were all given the go to leave into a clear lane. So no stop and go and idling. It must not have worked out, since it was not repeated, do you know why?

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