Reducing the line to get in the gate

Share your views on the policies, philosophies, and spirit of Burning Man.

Reducing the line to get in the gate

Postby bradtem » Thu Sep 08, 2011 11:03 am

Every year at this time we moan about the huge exodus wait some of us got, but perhaps more can be done about the lines that sometimes arise at the gate to get in. I have always found it disappointing that for many, the first experience at Burning Man is to be treated like a potential cheat to be searched for stowaways, and worse, it can make a large wait to get in. Gate crew work hard and in harsh conditions but might there be a way to get it done faster?

The simplest thing I can think of is to switch to random inspections. In the past, there was almost no penalty for trying to sneak in. When they caught you, they just made you buy a ticket, and if you were polite you paid only a small stupidity tax. Little reason not to try. That changed with the sell-out and now if you were caught your whole vehicle, including the people in it who paid for tickets got turned away and got no Burning Man. This caused a serious drop, I am told, in the number of attempted sneak-ins, and so you would expect.

I think searching 1 vehicle in 4, or frankly even 1 in 10 would do almost the same job. After all the cost and effort to get to the playa, would you take even a 1 in 10 chance that your tickets would be confiscated and your vehicle turned around just to let somebody try to sneak in? Even those who are randomly selected for search would face a shorter ride onto the playa because there are only 1/10th the cars in the line, even if the search was twice as long per car to be more thorough.

Another proposal: Car tickets. Let people buy a ticket that is good for all the occupants of a car, costing about 4.5x the cost of a regular ticket, and valid for any traditional sized 4-5 seat car, but a different class of ticket would be needed for minivans/suvs and so on. RVs probably could not use this except at high cost. And yes, if you want to squeeze 6 people into a small car you get to go in for less -- why not? Truth is most cars don't come in full. Rich people could buy a car ticket for just 2-3 people because it means they breeze through the gate without inspection. Other than, perhaps, some occasional NVHP checking that they don't have more people in the car than there are seatbelts which would get a traffic ticket or worse (requirement that somebody leave the car and the rest go back to Reno to reduce the load.)

You could even have an RV ticket, priced at perhaps 6x the regular ticket, but allowing up to 8 to come. Again, those willing to cram so tightly to save a few bucks should save a few bucks, it's reasonable variable pricing. Yes, you could stick 20 in an RV but random checks would stop that.

Another approach would be to let lots of burners train to work gate, ideally some sort of remote web-based training. They would also be vouched for by trusted people. When you get to the playa and the lane is long (say over an hour) the trained person can get out, and work half an hour of gate, and then their car goes through. Everybody gets through in less time. To avoid people volunteering for gate just to let other stowaways in, volunteers with a less established reputation are paired with another random volunteer or with a trusted gate worker.

With enough people trained, the larger the backup, the larger pool of people who can work gate to reduce the backup, it scales automatically.
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Re: Reducing the line to get in the gate

Postby junglesmacks » Thu Sep 08, 2011 11:47 am

Interesting ideas, but I have to say the best approach is to just suck it up and deal with it. :D
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Re: Reducing the line to get in the gate

Postby bradtem » Thu Sep 08, 2011 11:54 am

If 20,000 people spend an average of 1 hour waiting in gate line, that's 20,000 person hours (or about 10 person years) of time, or $300,000 at the average wage. Think what could be done with that time?
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Re: Reducing the line to get in the gate

Postby junglesmacks » Thu Sep 08, 2011 12:00 pm

Um.. burn even MORE shit in the desert?

bradtem wrote:If 20,000 people spend an average of 1 hour waiting in gate line, that's 20,000 person hours (or about 10 person years) of time, or $300,000 at the average wage. Think what could be done with that time?
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Re: Reducing the line to get in the gate

Postby bradtem » Thu Sep 08, 2011 12:06 pm

An excellent use of the time.

One of the annoyances of the long gate time is that it makes it very difficult to arrive at the playa in the daytime unless you stay in Reno. I have found that a good rule of thumb is you arrive at camp 12 hours after you leave the bay area, if you are in a truck or RV, when you consider the slower vehicle, stops for food, fuel and shopping, traffic and the waits at the gate etc. So you have to head out very early to get there during the day.

There are times with short entry gate of course, and a graph of wait times for both entry and exit would be a wonderful thing to see published.
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Re: Reducing the line to get in the gate

Postby Dr. Pyro » Thu Sep 08, 2011 12:12 pm

I am not one to go around heaping praise on people, especially burners whom I've never met, but it seems to me Bradtem's ideas are both revolutionary and workable. Oh sure, I'll probably get the "Well Doc, you're rich so you can afford to pay for special treatment" diatribes, and so be it. But an attitude like junglesmacks does nothing to further the argument. I happen to think that a free-market approach, albeit an anathema to the "burnier-than-thou" types, is a very enlightened approach. The only problem I see is that it is so reasonable and potentially workable that the BMOrg would therefore never even consider it.
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Re: Reducing the line to get in the gate

Postby BAS » Thu Sep 08, 2011 7:41 pm

If someone with the proposed vehicle ticket packs their vehicle full of people, where would they store supplies? (That would be one drawback that I can think of, since some folks would pack their vehicle with people rather than supplies.)
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Re: Reducing the line to get in the gate

Postby theCryptofishist » Thu Sep 08, 2011 7:44 pm

bradtem wrote:...but a different class of ticket would be needed for minivans/suvs and so on.

Ahem.
I need that minivan. I was able to take someone from Reno to BRC, with her stuff (but not a bike), but that was a lucky (for both of us) fluke. I'm not certain I'll ever again give someone a ride. I have to leave the fucking van about half empty, I only managed as well as I did by taking out the shotgun seat. I am already rethinking my camping strategy as a result of that shakedown cruise. I'm looking for smaller shade and some sort of cot, and maybe a tent... I wasn't able to take all the carport with me, and that part that did get a ride tried to kill me... I"m just not certain that a second person's infrastructure will fit, and I resent being asked to pay extra based on my vehicle. I also don't really want to have to prove at gate what I already have to prove at dmv. At some point it's intrusive and being in a fucking wheelchair means you always have to fucking say I'm sorry.
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Re: Reducing the line to get in the gate

Postby junglesmacks » Thu Sep 08, 2011 7:55 pm

Lol.. for the record, an "attitude like junglesmacks" is that of look.. you have to move 54k+ people through a gate.. check all tickets.. make sure there are no stowaways.. greet noobs.. give event guides.. etc. How much better do you seriously expect it to be without physically adding more gate crew and lines? It's a fucking huge event in the desert for christsakes. I'd say with resources given that things flow pretty smoothly. An attitude like junglesmacks also feels that there are many other worthwhile hairs to split than bitching about how long entry takes.

An attitude like junglesmacks also says dammit, I need another beer. While we're at it.. where the hell is my wine and who said Thursday can't be stripper night?



Dr. Pyro wrote: But an attitude like junglesmacks does nothing to further the argument..
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Re: Reducing the line to get in the gate

Postby bradtem » Thu Sep 08, 2011 8:25 pm

The concept of a car ticket is to avoid having to do counting and security. If you will have a car full of stuff, not people, a car ticket would not be right for you. I don't know how many people a car ticket would be right for, if we had one. Possibly only rich people who pay 4.5x the ticket price and only bring 2 or 3 but know they won't wait long at the gate. That's gate, of course. Greeters is another matter. In past years I have seen the greeters' station divided between lines for long-term burners at established camps vs. others. As much as it is fun to meet the greeters, it's not practical if doing so causes very long waits. But in my experience greeter waits are short, and greeters can speed up their task if the line is long. It is gate waits that are long because they have a set of things they have on a checklist, including the search.

I think random search is a better plan that car tickets. But they can be combined, if the car tickets will make sense for enough people. If you want to get strict, the car ticket price could be set based on the average number of people in a car with car tickets, and you get the same revenue for the same number of people. Of course, that's not easy because that number changes because of the price. If today there are an average of 2.5 per car, and a car ticket were 2.5x a single, then of course few solo arrivals would get one, and everybody with 3 or more planned occupants would get one, and some fraction of the 2 person cars would get one -- thus bumping the average. Whether it would converge is an interesting question. Car tickets would also encourage carpooling. Carpooling is not just good for the planet, serious carpooling increases would reduce gate and exodus times as well as make more space in the city. It might even be worth a little lost revenue. There is a number which you might set, though I don't know what it is, but let's imagine $800 per car, $1000 per RV -- where you would get the same revenue. Except a lot fewer cars would come. Only those with money to burn would drive solo, and they would be encouraged to join with others in shared vehicles. Gifting of a ticket would amount to giving somebody a ride if you have a seat. Camp trucks with one person would pay a lot, but shared amongst the people who put the gear in them it would not be that bad.

Consider a camp of 30 people coming in 6 cars and 1 truck. Today they might spend 30x$250 or $7500 for tickets and come in 10-12 vehicles. If car/truck tickets were $1000 they would spend $7,000 -- about the same.

Anyway, just a thought. There is a germ of an idea in here. It extends a little from an ancient proposal I had for a carpool lane at gate/exodus, where in this case to be a carpool required 4 in a vehicle perhaps. Done right this actually speeds up everybody's trip, not just the carpoolers because of the reduction in total vehicles.

The current ticket policy actually discourages giving strangers a ride. In the past, I have picked up people in Reno and taken them to the playa. Today I run a big risk if they have bought a forged ticket, as I would have to drive them back to Reno. Not even willing to suffer a 1% chance of that. In a car-ticket world, people hitching rides would not actually buy tickets, but instead just give cash to the driver of a car with a car-ticket for a ride in. Or get gifted it, possibly. Since this would imply a risk to the hitcher, an alternate system would be one where if somebody in a car-ticket car presents a solo ticket, they get a special sticker on it that lets them get some refund. That way they are assured to get in in a pinch (or if joining a non-car-ticket car) but also can join a car ticket.
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Re: Reducing the line to get in the gate

Postby Mr. Googles » Thu Sep 08, 2011 10:00 pm

My girlfriend came up with a great idea to speed up the line this year. What if you designated that all RV's had to go to an RV lane or two. Think about it.. RV's must take much longer to search vs a normal car, or small vehicle. You could have all large vehicles go into certain lines that would have a designated team of people to get these beasts knocked out fast. Just an idea..
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Re: Reducing the line to get in the gate

Postby quiltfairy » Thu Sep 08, 2011 10:10 pm

I would like to start by acknowledging the very hard work that gate is and my appreciation for the people that do that work.

I would also like to mention that this last trip in to BRC was the longest and worst wait ever for me. I have been coming since 2003. I understand its crazy when leaving (exodus) because 30,000 plus people are all trying to merge onto a one lane highway at the same time.

On the way in though, we are all coming off a one lane highway onto a 6 lane road. What was most frustrating to me was that 6 people were involved in getting me through the gate, 7 counting the actual greeter that gave us hugs and our books and maps. Three people were standing at the little kiosk to ask if we had our tickets ready (that was all they did)....really like the sign said an hour ago about a quarter of a mile back? Then it took three people to search our vehicle. It seems to me that just the simple thing of efficient staff utilization would go a long way ! When I first stared coming the gate and search went much faster...they had crews that worked in twos...one took tickets and one searched cars and there were 3 or 4 crews working a single line.

I think its crazy that it takes 6 hours to go five'ish miles. There has got to be a better way.
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Re: Reducing the line to get in the gate

Postby bradtem » Thu Sep 08, 2011 10:29 pm

You can only reduce the overall wait a few ways. You can reduce the number of searches (which is what you get from making random searches or using car tickets.) You can reduce the length of the searches (which is hard and means reducing the efficacy of them.) You can reduce the total number of vehicles. Finally you can increase the number of gate staff, which is what the proposal of training many gate staff and allowing those in line to get out and do some gate work in exchange quicker access achieves.

Having an RV line might redistribute the wait so that RV people wait longer and car people wait less. Some would find that a great idea, others would not, but it doesn't reduce the overall load.

The word I heard is that stowaways were *way* down this year. This was because now there was a serious penalty for stowing away, and for even being in the car with a stowaway. A penalty so large that few would risk it. My personal feeling is you could search only 10% of cars with a penalty this nasty and still get very few stowaways, speeding up the gate line a lot and requiring less work by gate staff.

The penalty is a bit too nasty, as is the penalty for somebody in your car having a bad ticket. There are rare cases of stowaways who are unknown to the vehicle driver -- for example there have been people who have snuck into RVs and hid in them while the driver was at a gas station. The gate staff are empowered to not mete out the punishment if they are convinced this is the case, which is better than nothing, but it's very much a rule of men rather than a rule of law.

But at least as it stands now, there is much less need to be searched going into the city with the punishment being so effective as a deterrent and the tickets sold out.
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Re: Reducing the line to get in the gate

Postby BBadger » Thu Sep 08, 2011 11:59 pm

Originally I was blaming the RVs for clogging up the line, but when I got to the actual inspection area, I realized that the main line wait didn't matter as RVs and other vehicles from the other lines get inspected with no regard to the original line the vehicle was in. Having a dedicated RV line might help, but I can imagine that what will inevitably happen is that the line will grow so long that it will be merged into other lines anyway. Perhaps a separate gate for them would help with a much longer line, but I'm not convinced.

In the end, I reason that a few hours more of wait is not going to make much difference in the overall scheme of things. I also found it fun and exciting to observe and interact with other burners in line, RV or cars. The wait didn't matter in the end; we ended up just unloading our stuff and going to sleep anyway when we arrived at camp.
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Re: Reducing the line to get in the gate

Postby curiousgnate » Fri Sep 09, 2011 8:41 am

I got in line at 630 sunday and was at camp by 830, not too bad maybe it has more to do with picking when you get there. gate crew are awesome, and even tried to be a little more nice then before. I also heard that they are going to try and get a noon opening time in the next contract. we shall see.
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Re: Reducing the line to get in the gate

Postby Bounce530 » Fri Sep 09, 2011 8:55 am

What I saw, was that during the main crush (I was off pavement at 10:30pm, and at tickets at 12:30am Monday morning) was that they were picking random vehicles to search. A gate crew member was marking vehicles with an X on the windshields. I did not get an X and was not searched. While my camp mate who came in on Monday afternoon had his trailer hella searched, they even looked in between the matresses!
But it seemed to me that the main clog was the confusion about the Will Call. Just a couple of gate crew trying to jockey so many people around to get to will call.
Another problem was people getting out of their vehicles and partying away from their vehicles, then realizing that the line had moved and then running back to their vehicles to move them up. That created a bunch of line jumping, which I think slowed the lines down as well.
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Re: Reducing the line to get in the gate

Postby bradtem » Fri Sep 09, 2011 9:02 am

Ah, so they are doing random already, which is great. Yes, I have never had a bad time with gate crew, and I don't blame them for the wait, the wait is a result of policy in the face of the crush of people who all arrive close together.

I have always been searched, but this year I came at a light time. I know the search well enough that I lead them to the places they are going to be searching and save them time -- "That's the propane tank, you can look underneath and see it."

I still feel that being searched as your first experience of our free community is a sour message, though. It seems so against everything at Burning Man and would love to find alternatives to it.
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Re: Reducing the line to get in the gate

Postby BBadger » Fri Sep 09, 2011 9:23 am

bradtem wrote:I still feel that being searched as your first experience of our free community is a sour message, though. It seems so against everything at Burning Man and would love to find alternatives to it.


Just remember that you're at Burning Man only after you've entered the gates. Prior to that point to even get in the gates is not free, nor cheap, and the search helps keep dishonest riff-raff from polluting the event.
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Re: Reducing the line to get in the gate

Postby bradtem » Fri Sep 09, 2011 9:41 am

BBadger wrote:
bradtem wrote:I still feel that being searched as your first experience of our free community is a sour message, though. It seems so against everything at Burning Man and would love to find alternatives to it.


Just remember that you're at Burning Man only after you've entered the gates. Prior to that point to even get in the gates is not free, nor cheap, and the search helps keep dishonest riff-raff from polluting the event.


I've heard this "you're not at Burning Man until you go through the gate" line and sorry, I think it's entirely wrong. I'm on the playa, dealing with Burning Man staff and volunteers, on roads made by BM, among other burners. I am not inside Burning Man's fence but I am definitely at Burning Man. And the gate process is definitely your first encounter, other than a few signs on the road, with Burning Man, not the dust after you drive through it.

I know *why* they do it. It increases revenue, and is fairer to those who paid. That doesn't stop it from being sour that the first message is about maximizing revenue and distrust. Those are not invalid messages, but they are lousy first experiences of Burning Man. This is part of why I propose car tickets because even though random search is more effective at cutting search time, car tickets change the gate experience to "I see you have a car ticket. Welcome home -- drive right in." I like the Welcome Home message the greeters will give but I am not searched going back to my home.
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Re: Reducing the line to get in the gate

Postby BBadger » Fri Sep 09, 2011 9:49 am

I have no problem with the searches, and I would grin ear-to-ear seeing some stowaway get caught and sent back to Reno with the chumps who thought they could sneak him in. Less trash to encounter at the burn.
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Re: Reducing the line to get in the gate

Postby FIGJAM » Fri Sep 09, 2011 10:05 am

It seemed the searches could be better orginized.

And searching 4 or 5 cars deep on every line for the first 24hrs. would speed things up a lot.
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Re: Reducing the line to get in the gate

Postby illy dilly » Fri Sep 09, 2011 3:16 pm

Mr. Googles wrote:My girlfriend came up with a great idea to speed up the line this year. What if you designated that all RV's had to go to an RV lane or two. Think about it.. RV's must take much longer to search vs a normal car, or small vehicle. You could have all large vehicles go into certain lines that would have a designated team of people to get these beasts knocked out fast. Just an idea..

And in these two lanes have more than one person searching cars. Shit, have a group of 8 people, that search 4 RVs at a time.

Also, educate RV'ers what they can do to make RV searches quicker. From experience I know, have all your compartments already unlocked. Have 1 person sitting in the driver seat, have one person walking around the out side with a spare key unlocking the campartments. AND FOR FUCK SAKES, TELL ALL THE PASSENGERS TO SIT THE FUCK DOWN!!!!
I had to tell our virgins 4 times "Sit the fuck down so the searcher can get around" and yet still they were up moving around in the dudes way, so it took longer.
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Re: Reducing the line to get in the gate

Postby illy dilly » Fri Sep 09, 2011 3:21 pm

bradtem wrote: This is part of why I propose car tickets because even though random search is more effective at cutting search time, car tickets change the gate experience to "I see you have a car ticket. Welcome home -- drive right in." I like the Welcome Home message the greeters will give but I am not searched going back to my home.

Though, tickets received are counted, and that helps determine the "average population" of black rock city at any time. By selling car tickets there could end up being an abundance of people, or fewer than anticipated. It would too greatly skew the number.
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Re: Reducing the line to get in the gate

Postby bradtem » Fri Sep 09, 2011 3:37 pm

There is no problem counting the people in the cars with a car ticket, or simply asking them the actual total. They have no motive to lie.
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Re: Reducing the line to get in the gate

Postby theCryptofishist » Fri Sep 09, 2011 8:47 pm

"Car tickets" would cause messes. I broke up with my girlfriend, because I found her banging my best friend--and the guy who has the car ticket I helped pay for! for beginners.
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Re: Reducing the line to get in the gate

Postby bradtem » Fri Sep 09, 2011 9:01 pm

You'll have to do better than that. I can imagine worse situations than that. The world is full of situations about who paid for what when people break up. Chances are in this situation one in the couple bought both solo tickets anyway. But I'm not saying car tickets would be for everybody, necessarily, though there is an argument that having nothing but car tickets would have interesting results.

The reality, I suspect, is there would be a robust market in rideshares in cars with car tickets, as the owners of car tickets would be strongly motivated to fill every seat. If somebody flaked out you could sell their seat to somebody else. If you don't refund what they paid that's a small claims court matter, just as it would be with regular tickets. But I would not start that way, I would start with them as an option, for those comfortable with them.
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Re: Reducing the line to get in the gate

Postby curiousgnate » Fri Sep 09, 2011 9:11 pm

ok really, i'm sorry but this is getting old. wether it be 2 hours, or 6 hours, searches or not. It simply is not a big deal. you get there you get in when you do. they search you or in my case look at how full my car is, (up to the ceiling from behind the two front seats) and let you in. until there are more people working gate, or are fewer people trying to get in, it will take time. get over it. it is not a big deal, and most are willing to wait as long as they can. If you want a quick entrance come after tuesday, or be prepared for a long one. and no i don't think your ideas will make much if any difference. and no i don't think it is a way for the org to make money, and no i don't think that there is anything to do to make it more quick, other then have a fleet of gate people and that isn't gonna happen there are already not enough volunteers.
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Re: Reducing the line to get in the gate

Postby bradtem » Fri Sep 09, 2011 10:27 pm

Well, according to one report here they were doing random search when the line got long, so obviously the ideas I am talking about are not unworkable and presumably also reduced both the line and the gate workload at the same time.

In fact, there are many alternatives to searching. You don't even get your car searched at the border as much as you get going into Black Rock City.

For example, they could not search at all. If they did this, they would get perhaps a thousand stowaways sneaking in, to make a guess, since most burners are reasonably honest. Out of 50,000 people, 1,000 sneak-ins is 2%. I bet most people would gladly pay 2% more to have short gate lines if you asked around. It might not even be that many. Not searching does not mean not noticing, so some would still be caught, there would still be some risk and the penalty is high.

Or they could search 1 car in 20. This would seriously reduce gate workload as well as lines, and would deter most sneak-ins. You might get at most a couple hundred, but possibly fewer than that.

Most of the default world works this way. They don't put heavy searches on you when you enter and leave most places. Except perhaps at airports or in Israel. Stores accept that having low security makes stealing easier. They call it shrinkage and put it into the price, because most customers would rather shop at a store with 2% higher prices than a store where you get searched and treated like a potential thief when you go. I resent that the first thing Burning Man does to me is say "we think you might be cheating" and make me wait in a long line so they can check everybody else for cheating. I'm amazed that people say "Chill, dude, the long waits are just part of the event."

The car ticket proposal is different. It helps with gate workload and the line, but has a second benefit -- increasing carpooling and thus making exodus better too. However, I would frankly be much happier if they just reduced the searching to a bare minimum, and increased the price of tickets slightly. It's the right thing to do for people. A $10 more expensive ticket to deal with the "shrinkage" is a hell of a lot less burden to put on people than an hour of their time. And not treating every Burner like a potential cheat has huge positive value.
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Re: Reducing the line to get in the gate

Postby Packoderm » Fri Sep 09, 2011 10:54 pm

It's probably best, or easier anyway, not to push the idea of using ingenuity and imagination to make something better. Many people don't like that sort of thing. For instance, people were dead set against the automobile replacing the horse.
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Re: Reducing the line to get in the gate

Postby curiousgnate » Fri Sep 09, 2011 11:09 pm

as i said before, not a biggie! glad you get to think about this and maybe you could shorten times by a few minutes, but in reality its not going to change and is not a big deal. sorry, this will be my last post in this forum. get the f over it.
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