I haven't been to Burning Man before, so this idea may be flawed for some reason that's obvious to experienced burners. This is more of along the lines of, "If you think this wouldn't work, tell me why it wouldn't work." And who knows, maybe some modified version of this could work in the future, if the problems people point out, are fixable.
My question: Why not have a priority exodus line set aside for vehicles who leave during a designated time slot, based on the last digit of their license plate? So for example halfway through Burning Man, a random number or letter would be selected by the organizers -- say, "T". So during daylight hours on the last day, a priority exit lane is set up where from 6:00-6:30 AM, only vehicles with license plates ending in "T" can exit. Then from 6:30-7:00 AM, only vehicles with license plates ending in "U" can exit. And so on, until you've cycled through all the letters and numbers. (The initial letter in the cycle -- in this case, T -- would have to be selected after the event starts, to prevent people from gaming the system in advance, by bringing in vehicles with plates deliberately chosen to get an early exit time.) And then you have a longer line for everybody else who doesn't want to leave in their designated time slot.
I read the FAQ at http://www.burningman.com/preparation/e ... etting_Out
, where one of the questions is "You should set up a system where people can register for a departure time and give them an 'express' lane", and the answer gives various reasons why that wouldn't work -- creating a registration system, verifying departure times as people leave, lost registration slips, etc. However, this idea would seem to avoid most of those problems -- nobody has to "register" for anything, and the only "verification" that volunteers have to do as cars are leaving, is eyeball the last digit of the license plate as the car slowly passes. (And if you spot somebody cheating, don't throw your body in front of the vehicle, just radio ahead with a description of the car, so that traffic control can stop the car from leaving in the priority lane -- since even in the priority lane, all these cars would be moving slowly anyway.)
People could still game the system a little bit by bringing multiple license plates and putting the earliest-departure license plate on their car after the rotation schedule is announced. However, apart from the fact that some people would be deterred from doing this by the fact that it is (I think) illegal, there'd also be diminishing returns from loading up on too many spare license plates. Out of 36 time slots (one for each letter or number), you'd have to acquire 4 different license plates to guarantee being able to leave in one of the first 9 time slots. But you'd have to get 12 different license plates to guarantee being able to leave within one of the first 3 time slots, etc. At a certain point I think most people would decide it's less work just to hang out with friends for a few more hours and wait your turn.
Is there any reason why this wouldn't be more efficient than the current system? (For example, "Some people would miss their timeslot and then have to wait in the long line" -- well yes that's true, but it would still seem more efficient than the present system, where *everybody* has to wait in the same long line.)