Reducing the line to get in the gate

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Re: Reducing the line to get in the gate

Postby bradtem » Fri Sep 09, 2011 11:33 pm

Some more on the math of this.

I believe what I had heard that in the days when there was essentially no punishment for stowing away (if you got caught you had to buy a gate ticket plus a minor stupidity tax like $50 if you did not argue about it) my understanding is the total number of sneak-ins was a couple of hundred. With no gate sales, I am told it dropped way down this year. I would love to see the actual numbers.

So I think the actual number of stowaways with zero searches would still not exceed about 500 but it's hard to predict. However, with occasional searches (plus just plain noticing things) you would probably catch a modest number of them, say 50-100 depending on the level of random search. However, each of those comes with probably an average of two ticket holders who are turned away from the gate. For example with 500 stowaways and 100 caught, lost revenue is 400 stowaways - 200 ticketholders turned away, or just 200 persons worth of revenue out of 50,000. That's pretty negligible. These are SWAG numbers and it would be interesting to see the real ones to work it out. There is no doubt a balance that provides acceptable shrinkage, reduces gate workload greatly and produces minimal waits entering the city even at midnight Monday.
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Re: Reducing the line to get in the gate

Postby curiousgnate » Sat Sep 10, 2011 12:08 am

still think you are over thinking this. the wait could maybe be reduced by a little bit 30 min. why bother. you gonna volunteer for gate? not a biggie!
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Re: Reducing the line to get in the gate

Postby BBadger » Sat Sep 10, 2011 12:33 am

curiousgnate wrote:still think you are over thinking this. the wait could maybe be reduced by a little bit 30 min. why bother. you gonna volunteer for gate? not a biggie!


Yeah, it's kind of like people drinking alcohol while driving before reaching camp: that level of impatience really isn't worth accommodating. It'd probably only end up resulting in having fewer inspectors, not affecting the line wait anyway.
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Re: Reducing the line to get in the gate

Postby CapSmashy » Sat Sep 10, 2011 11:27 am

bradtem wrote: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 huge Exodus wait and the wait to get past Gate are caused for the same reasons, an enormous volume of traffic all trying to funnel into or out of the same space from a limited, finite point of origin.

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.


During peak volume, random searches are already utilized for smaller cars. A gate crew staffer can search a well packed RV or box truck in a very fast and efficient manner. There are also a number of identifiers we look for in terms of who gets selected and who gets marked for no search. No, I will not disclose such information.

Also during peak volume, poorly packed vehicles and trailers are shuttled to D Lot for their search. You want to speed up the process? Start telling people to pack more efficiently and stop rolling up in vehicles and trailers that look like they were packed by a pack of wild monkies on crystal meth that flung everything into the back of a box truck from 20 feet away.

Searches are also not only for stowaways.

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.


The event permit is based on population. This is a BLM stipulation and is non-negotiable once the population numbers are established on the permit. A fixed population determines many of the critical infrastructure needs of the event such as how much ice needs to brought in, the number of porta potties, the number of medical staff to have on hand, etc. 10k "car or rv tickets" being sold with an indeterminate number of participants in each vehicle could leave the city shorted on critical infrastructure needs or cause the event to incur unnecessary expenses trying to guesstimate and overstaff expensive services like medical and fire services.

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.


Liability nightmare. Gate crew are volunteers and trained for their positions in a hands on environment. A web based training approach would not prepare the person for the conditions they would be facing in the dust, especially during peak volume in the lanes. We have several "dead zones", as in, you are in danger of being dead if you are in these zones during your shift. Also, where do you propose parking the vehicles of these 30 minute volunteers? Trying to establish another avenue of traffic and parking areas would slow the process down even more.

With enough people trained, the larger the backup, the larger pool of people who can work gate to reduce the backup, it scales automatically.


There is a volunteer link off of the main Burning Man website. Come out with us next year and work the lanes and get a first hand perspective of what it is we do and how we do it.
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Re: Reducing the line to get in the gate

Postby CapSmashy » Sat Sep 10, 2011 11:45 am

From a staffer perspective of how to speed up the process of getting into the city.

STAY IN YOUR FUCKING CAR. Random fucktards wandering the lanes of cracked out drivers present numerous issues that slow down the process. If you get run over by an RV, the lane gets shut down. Even worse? Random fucktards on bikes. I witnessed several near misses Monday night of idiots that just had to get out of their vehicles and nearly get hit because they were too busy with their "WOO-HOO! BURNING MAN!" celebration and not paying attention to the lumbering behemoth vehicles around them being driven by tired, sleep deprived cracked out drivers that forget things like putting their vehicle in park or keeping their foot on the brake at idle.

The other issue that occurs when you get out of your car? You loose your car. I just wanna go SEE IT MAN! and 10 minutes later after a gate staffer asks you to go back to your vehicle, you can't find it or your friends. Guess what dipshit, you just slowed down the lanes for everyone else because now you are wandering around in traffic looking for that El Monte RV that 500 other people happen to be driving while your friends are stopped looking for you dumb ass.

Have you vehicle serviced. You already know the gate line is going to be long. Do not compound the problem with a pile of junk, 40 year old RV running on 5 of it's 8 cylinders that is going to puke itself after sitting at idle for 2 hours. A lane has to be closed, we have to wait for the tow truck (or for you to push it out of the way) and the process gets slowed down.

Pack your vehicle in an efficient, orderly manner. You already know you are going to be searched upon arrival. Having to pull you out of a lane and shuffle you off to D Lot for a search slows down the process and will likely add another hour to your entry process since no, you can not just go back into the city the way you came to D Lot.

Don't have a DMV email invite for your mutant vehicle? DON'T FUCKING BRING IT. Do not pass gate, go directly to D Lot and slow down the lanes while we have to shuffle you over there.

Stay in your fucking lane. Lane hopping creates confusion and endangers everyone around you. We will happily direct to the will call lot upon reaching the check point no matter what lane you are in. And for the love of all that is holy, why the fuck can't people figure out how to park themselves in an orderly, efficient manner? We have to pull gate staff resources that could be moving the process through the gate over to the will call lot in order to make sure people can get in and out in a timely manner. Parking your 40 foot RV across the exit lane does not help this process.
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Re: Reducing the line to get in the gate

Postby bradtem » Sat Sep 10, 2011 12:05 pm

CapSmashy wrote:
During peak volume, random searches are already utilized for smaller cars. A gate crew staffer can search a well packed RV or box truck in a very fast and efficient manner. There are also a number of identifiers we look for in terms of who gets selected and who gets marked for no search. No, I will not disclose such information.

Also during peak volume, poorly packed vehicles and trailers are shuttled to D Lot for their search. You want to speed up the process? Start telling people to pack more efficiently and stop rolling up in vehicles and trailers that look like they were packed by a pack of wild monkies on crystal meth that flung everything into the back of a box truck from 20 feet away.

Searches are also not only for stowaways.



Yes, I have generally find gate crew to do quality work and at a reasonable rate. As you noted, we have a lot of people all trying to enter at once, and so this is more a policy question than an issue over how particular searches are done. I entered at a low time this year so I did not encounter the random search procedure -- how long has that been in place? I've always been searched, at least since searching began, even when not in an RV (but then I've had a tightly packed van.) Which, as you say is not just for stowaways but also for things like plants. I would presume that most of the non-human things searched for are not deliberately hidden, but rather are things that people just didn't know not to bring like plants, feather boas and the like. Or do you find people actively hiding such things?

The event permit is based on population. This is a BLM stipulation and is non-negotiable once the population numbers are established on the permit. A fixed population determines many of the critical infrastructure needs of the event such as how much ice needs to brought in, the number of porta potties, the number of medical staff to have on hand, etc. 10k "car or rv tickets" being sold with an indeterminate number of participants in each vehicle could leave the city shorted on critical infrastructure needs or cause the event to incur unnecessary expenses trying to guesstimate and overstaff expensive services like medical and fire services.


While I know there is a new BLM director now, I've talked a fair bit with the prior one and they are actually more flexible on this than you might imagine. You would still learn how to private a very good prediction by statistical methods of actual population in a car ticket system, but admittedly that is hard the first year. You would have an exact count after entry of course. I had presumed this already went on, in that some fraction of tickets are always unused (though this probably changed this year due to a much stronger secondary market for tix) and that this was accounted for in population estimation. Perhaps not, since BM is not a traditional business even though all traditional businesses do this.

Car tickets also provide a cap in that legally a car ticket would still not allow more people than there are seat belts for, and would probably be priced to be a minor bargain if all seat belts are used, and a premium cost if some are not used. As such you would have fewer people in the city than you sold seats for, but you would have adequate revenue with which to provision services. Most people would be quite fine with having fewer people in the city at the same revenue level! The concept of selling out changes this a bit though.

Liability nightmare. Gate crew are volunteers and trained for their positions in a hands on environment. A web based training approach would not prepare the person for the conditions they would be facing in the dust, especially during peak volume in the lanes. We have several "dead zones", as in, you are in danger of being dead if you are in these zones during your shift. Also, where do you propose parking the vehicles of these 30 minute volunteers? Trying to establish another avenue of traffic and parking areas would slow the process down even more.


Not sure what the liability issue is here, but it could, as you say, be only something available to people with on-playa or in-person gate training. I agree this is not a trivial thing to do, but I don't think that having an extra parking place is so complex as to offset the value of having extra trained crew at peak times. However, this is something that could be evaluated if such an approach were to be tried.

There is a volunteer link off of the main Burning Man website. Come out with us next year and work the lanes and get a first hand perspective of what it is we do and how we do it.


Every year I have, alas, 1 or more art projects I need to build upon arrival. This has precluded my volunteering for gate or greeters, but I hope it does not preclude making suggestions and asking questions. I don't expect public disclosure of secrets that would help people to sneak in, but I am curious as to how large the contraband (moopy materials, hidden art cars etc) problem is compared to the sneak-in problem. I am also curious as to what volume of tickets are at will-call. I've always avoided will-call, but if it's like 99% of the will-calls out there, there are several ways to make such things more efficient. (For example, most will-calls require people to show ID and that's not necessary today.)

Burning Man processes definitely can be improved. I was very impressed with the new DMV this year, which went from being a 1-2 hour wait process to a 3 minute process with a bit of thinking and a bit of technology.
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Re: Reducing the line to get in the gate

Postby CapSmashy » Sat Sep 10, 2011 12:34 pm

Yes, the DMV process was very well done this year. Kudos to them. :)

The liability issue would involve having a staffer that did not go through the training session on playa getting injured or killed because they were not privy to the hands on training environment and put them self in harm's way unknowingly. An extra parking area would entail laying out more traffic lanes, having to staff those lanes to prevent the monkey see monkey do mentality of other people trying to follow the car into the area, etc.

The efficiency of the operation is a direct result of the volume of vehicles coming into the city. There is only so much you can do in terms of the number of staffers vs the volume of vehicles all trying to come in that first 24 hour window when gate opens. Its one thing to see it from the perspective of a participant, its quite another to come back on shift 18 hours later and find out that the number of cars coming in has not really slacked off since you got off shift.

With finite, and more importantly, volunteer based resources, there is only so much you can do. Especially if you have 5 or 6 staffers not show up for their shift during a peak period.

There is also the limits of how many staffers can safely and efficiently work the lanes. Too many staffers can create an even higher levels of confusion and inefficiency.
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Re: Reducing the line to get in the gate

Postby curiousgnate » Sun Sep 11, 2011 7:05 am

well said Captain!!!!!!!!!!!! and well done!!!!! and many thanks to the gate crew for their hard hard work! black hole rules!!! hahahaaaa!
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Re: Reducing the line to get in the gate

Postby bluesbob » Wed Oct 12, 2011 6:20 pm

I just feel the wait getting in and the wait getting out are part of the BM experience. Crappy ones, but experiences just the same.
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Re: Reducing the line to get in the gate

Postby Lord Of Ruin » Fri Oct 28, 2011 3:31 pm

I've stayed quiet on the thread for a bit, mainly because Capt was one of those people that had commented/observed (often nicely) about Gate, but finally this past event actually came out and worked Gate.

So when he says "you just don't know until you come" he knows that of which he speaks.


@Bradtem

You're quite right about you being able to suggest things even though you don't come and volunteer. I don't think the invite to come volunteer is entirely so that you'll "get what we go through" but rather you'd see a couple of things right away:

A LOT of Gate people have been working for BM and for Gate/Perimeter/Exodus for a LONG time. A lot of those in leadership have spent a lot of time thinking, researching, proposing and trying many different things. So when someone invites you to come, they're sorta using polite shorthand for "You don't really know what you're talking about."

You are quite correct in that some of the things that you offer haven't been put into effect. But you're making a wrong assumption in believing that's because it's never been proposed or tried. Almost all of them have, or have been discarded because they are unworkable because of other constraints of the event.

You make far, far too many assumptions about what the "right" behavior of people would be. I've worked with volunteers out at BM for 6 years or so now, and I can tell you a lot of them work very hard, but a lot of them flake out and have serious entitlement issues. Again, if you'd done this stuff, you'd realize your theory about "just train them and they'll all help/many hands make light work" just doesn't hold true after a certain point.

Capt. is right when he says that there is a functional limit to how many people/teams can work in a lane. We know how many that is with pretty good emprirical evidence at this point.

Others in the thread are right...there are sometimes people standing around at the head of the lanes when you get up there. That does not mean that they should be working the lanes/searching. Some are being broken/rested. Some are being trained. Some are looking for specific things the shift leads told them to watch for, etc. Lots and lots of things. Most often that's a group that's new/is being trained. They often need prompting to go into action until they find their rhythmn.

Spot searches have always been a part of the Gate playbook. Just because they haven't happened to you doesn't mean that it didn't exist before.

Stupid taxes have always been in play. I've never seen one as low as $50 unless it was a naked girl. This year had less to do with the threat of "entire car will be turned away" (there are reasons we think this wasn't the large deterrent, but I'll let you think about it and figure it out) and more to do with the fact that with other stowaways, even with the stupid tax, there still is the possibility of remedying the issue and gaining entry, even if it costs you. This year, no such possibility existed, making the personal consequences much harsher.

Car tickets will never work. I don't care your many conversations with the BLM made you feel; the people that have negotiated the permit have tried all manner of slicing this problem up. BLM simply will not have it. They want a hard and fast daily pop count, and not only for cost reasons. Also, your individual ticket is a revokable license to you. Hard to do that with some sort of group ticket unless each person on the "group ticket" signs a contract?

Searches aren't going away in any meaningful way either. The presence of a search is one layer of the overall security of the event. That overall security contributes to the amount of on site law enforcement is required by the permit (as do Rangers, etc).

Car pool lane idea: Intriguing, but I'd ask what problem you're trying to solve. Generally, small cars with one or two occupants in them are very, very fast to search and they're often done waiting for the vehicle in front of them to pass so they can enter the city. Larger vehicles with one or two occupants tend to be people hauling stuff for a camp or installation; they're large and very dense. Often we pass these through to DLot for more time consuming searches, especially on opening night.

I'm curious...you mentioned that you had Art projects that precluded you from helping out with Gate. You do know we staff out there from the second week of August through the second week of September, right? We can use help in all three of our groups nearly that entire time. We have people that'd love to hear your ideas, especially once you get in the thick of things and see some of the data your missing.
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Re: Reducing the line to get in the gate

Postby robbidobbs » Fri Oct 28, 2011 3:49 pm

Very nice, Captain Smashy! Excellent work on esplain'in.
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Re: Reducing the line to get in the gate

Postby bradtem » Fri Oct 28, 2011 6:44 pm

Thanks. While the thread is getting old, I do appreciate your effort to explain why certain things work as they do. I've gone through the gate 14 times but as I said, once I arrive I have always been building my art installations and have not worked the gate to learn things in depth -- which is why explaining the things most people don't know is the most useful thing.

Of course, there are two views that pull against each other. There is the feeling that Black Rock City is a a community which belongs to its members, a place that greets you and tells you welcome home. And the harsher reality that it's an event owned by a corporation, with perimeter guards and permit rules negotiated with the BLM. Both views have truth. Many people even hold both views at once, and struggle to reconcile them. There is new BLM management now, but both old and new management know they deeply need Burning Man. It pays for most of the budget of the offices there. This doesn't mean the BMOrg can ask for anything, but rather that it has to decide what is most important to spend this credit on, and how much the other side thinks it is giving away. Sometimes innovation is possible, sometimes it's not. But you can count quite easily with car tickets, but the difference is with a car ticket there is no reason for people to stow away, so you just look and count them, and do a cursory check for plants/feathers etc. (California protects a multi-billion dollar fruit industry by simply stopping cars and asking them if they happen to have fruit with them.)

I'm sure many plans have been discussed, or tried, that the public is not not aware of. I've yet to go into a place and not think of something they haven't thought of before, though. People on the outside often think outside the box in ways people inside don't. Even groups like the TSA come up with ideas to improve throughput, and have gotten them from passengers, even after their own people have watched hundreds of millions of people go through their gates. (Three recent ones: Longer prep-tables, expert traveler lanes and easy-prep laptop bags.)

The first question to ask is what are the key bottlenecks and why do they exist. As folks have said the number of trained volunteers available is a major one. But it's not as simple as that. Something that speeds up the number of cars per volunteer will improve throughput. If you can only have so many crews per lane, I presume that the reason they don't make more lanes is that the available crew size never justifies it, or is it something else?
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Re: Reducing the line to get in the gate

Postby burner von braun » Fri Oct 28, 2011 7:03 pm

I realize something like this has probably already been considered, but..

Suppose there were two types of tickets (disregard the tier system for now). These two types of tickets are notably different, say one red, the other yellow. The red ticket would cost more, perhaps $100, 150, maybe more, but it would get you in a day or so earlier. (I leave it to the acturarily minded to determine exact numbers)
The goal of this system would be to provide the correct financial vs. entry incentive to effectively split the traffic load evenly over two days, which would also relieve congestion on 447 coming up to the event.
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Re: Reducing the line to get in the gate

Postby bradtem » Fri Oct 28, 2011 7:25 pm

Selling arrival time is complex because for those who did not get theme camp placement, arrival time equals location in the city. Get in sooner, get a better choice. So selling arrival time is selling placement which could be an issue.

Even selling a bypass at the gate (or on exodus) would create problems with the burner ethic, though they could indeed sell such privileges for quite a bit of money. In a sense, there is one way to get that privilege which is to fly. Pilots and their passengers fly over the line.

If they were to sell such a bypass, the thing that would make sense would be to make it be via the Jungo road. Two problems though. One, it's notorious for tearing up tires which could make a good living for a well equipped tow truck on the route, and two, if you did it at exodus they still have to merge on just before Empire and you would have to build a special intersection there to make that not be a chaos of its own. Though I think you could build one by widening the road to 3 lanes and having the middle lane be a special lane people off of that road turn left onto, giving them a large stretch to get up to speed and merge.

Still have not gotten real info on what the volume is at the various exodus bottlenecks though. Some claim it's the road south from Empire to Nixon, in which case using the dirt road does not help, unless you take it all the way to Winemucca.
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Re: Reducing the line to get in the gate

Postby britzbitz » Sat Oct 29, 2011 10:16 am

From the standpoint of someone who organizes a festival for a living, the prospect of "vehicle passes" seems like an absolute logistical nightmare, even with Burning Man being much more loose on policies and rules than most events. I'm getting a headache just thinking about how something like that would be implemented.

Aside from that, even though I've only been to Burning Man once, I thought the wait to get in was reasonable. And the process was very well ogranized. Plus, watching my first Playa sunrise on Monday morning in the lineup was f'ing awesome.

It took us a few hours to get from pavement to gate staff, but Security took like, under two minutes to breeze through. They popped their head into our RV, asked us if we had any weapons, asked to see our tickets…that was it. Super easy, fast interaction.

From my personal experience, it didn't seem broken…therefore, doesn't need fixing.
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Re: Reducing the line to get in the gate

Postby britzbitz » Sat Oct 29, 2011 10:18 am

burner von braun wrote:I realize something like this has probably already been considered, but..

Suppose there were two types of tickets (disregard the tier system for now). These two types of tickets are notably different, say one red, the other yellow. The red ticket would cost more, perhaps $100, 150, maybe more, but it would get you in a day or so earlier. (I leave it to the acturarily minded to determine exact numbers)
The goal of this system would be to provide the correct financial vs. entry incentive to effectively split the traffic load evenly over two days, which would also relieve congestion on 447 coming up to the event.


Great idea in theory, but it doesn't work. Our festival has two early entry days. The original idea (7 years ago) was to do this to split up the number of people coming in over three days (Wednesday, Thursday, Friday). Now, we just have 80% of people paying the premium and showing up between Wednesday and Thursday.
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Re: Reducing the line to get in the gate

Postby Nipple » Sat Oct 29, 2011 11:00 am

Now you need an even more expensive ticket, and have people come even earlier on Monday and Tuesday!

... and then you need a third more expensive ticket...

This goes on for a while, until you have someone paying a 128th tier ticket to come to next years festival on the last day of this year.
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next year im bringing the monkeys, smashy.

Postby Simon of the Playa » Sat Oct 29, 2011 11:16 am

loaded by a pack of wild monkies on crystal meth that flung everything into the back of a box truck from 20 feet away.


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Re: Reducing the line to get in the gate

Postby bradtem » Sat Oct 29, 2011 11:40 am

One way around the Sunday rush would be to pre-place all camps, including non-theme. However, that would be a huge effort using the current placement system and would overwhelm the placers. There is some emotional attachment to having much of the city be organic in placement as well. I believe this problem could be solved with a computerized system, but it would take some effort to build. In such a system, every ticket holder would enter their ticket number into the system and affiliate themselves with a camp. That would give the camp points to determine its order in the online placement, and its square footage. You might let people trade time for footage (place later, get more space) and also distance from the man & center camp could be a factor (be further away, get more footage) and so on.

Of course, that's just part one. There are not enough people to have placers guide such camps to their location, nor to plant survey flags. To solve this there are a few things you could do. You could require such camps to buy a measuring wheel (these can be had for under $20) and have a few for loan/sale, as well as surveyor's DGPS units for disputes. (A cheap WAAS gps is also accurate to about a meter if you leave it sit for 3 minutes.) And put enough slop in the borders that they don't have to get it perfect because the previous alternative was just "grab what land you can." (Each camp would get a page to print showing their space and the distance of all points on their border from a much more modest set of survey flags and t-posts, both along the curve and straight, as well as lat/long.) There would be some fights of course, but there also is a lot of value in smoothing out the peak, though it might just move the peak to a different time. Arriving at midnight is a pretty annoying time to have to set up your camp. It also fixes one thing I have always found unfair -- the "soft opening" punishes the people who follow the rules they are given and don't arrive until midnight and gives priority to those who ignore it and show up 4 hours early. The only thing softening the peak is that some people know this and some don't.
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Re: Reducing the line to get in the gate

Postby Rice » Sat Oct 29, 2011 11:53 am

I have gone through the BRC gate 5 times. 3 times at the official opening and 2 times with early entry.

It is true that the gate process is not 100% perfect. I do not believe that is possible.

At what point do we take our eyes away from the actual gate and look at the people trying to go through the gate??

Have you ever watched people in line? Do they drive and wait in a way which will minimize their time in line? (ie: do they stay with their vehicle, so it can move forward? Do they have everything packed in a way which will simplify the search? Do they know where their tickets are, and have them ready to hand over to gate staff? Do they follow the signs? Do they listen and follow the instructions from gate staff? Have they even read and comprehended the survival guide?)

I bet, if everyone in line (yes, even on opening night) was to make an effort to minimize their wait, it would be shorter.


From what I have seen, the lineup is like a 1000 kittens. Have you ever tried to herd kittens??

Again, the gate is not perfect, but neither are the people in line. I doesn't matter how good the gate is if people can't even form a proper queue!


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Re: Reducing the line to get in the gate

Postby bradtem » Sat Oct 29, 2011 12:14 pm

Those factors were what led the TSA to introduce the "expert traveler line." Surprisingly, it works (20-40% greater throughput at expert lane, and even improvements in family lane) even though there is no enforcement or rule, anybody can go in it, you declare yourself to be an expert traveler.

Many people, as you say, are set up to take a long time to be processed. (Though I can excuse those who don't feel that people have a duty to make it easier to be searched.) They slow down the processing for everybody, including those who have made the process quick and easy, who have their tickets at hand, who know not to bring plants or guns or fireworks or feathers or etc. Dividing them might help, and if your intuition is that it would not, what was your intuition about expert traveler?

With any security/gate system, the goal is not 100% perfection. It is tolerable losses. It is better to have 100 stowaways sneak in (costing everybody else 60 cents more/ticket) than to have zero stowaways and 5 minutes extra average wait. You won't get rid of all the plants and fireworks and moop and weapons -- people who are determined to sneak these in will sneak these in, but if you get the amount below a certain level you have success. There is always a tradeoff between how close to zero you have to get, and how much it costs you in staff time, volunteer time and wait times for community members. When you think like a city, you think most about the wait time for the community. When you think like an event, you focus more the other way.
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Re: Reducing the line to get in the gate

Postby BBadger » Sat Oct 29, 2011 3:00 pm

Good hell. This thread has gotten more and more ridiculous as it has progressed. Computerized placement? Footage/wait ratios? What next? Airlifting cars into the playa? Tunnels? Giant X-ray machines?

Newsflash: you're at this event for a whole fucking week. Why are you're scrambling over the remains and feces of a few hours before you actually enter the playa? What is the point of exodus "solutions" for a problem that gets solved by waiting or leaving early a half day or so? Do you really think you can do better when the maximum throughput at exodus (no searches there) is still not enough to move everyone out in under 4 hours?

Like the ticket prices, I think these car searches keep out riff-raff and douchebags. I want stowaways and the degenerate assholes who bring them caught and evicted from the event (blacklisted too). I want boas, pets, plants, fireworks and other bullshit found and the owners sent back to Reno. If that means a paltry sacrifice of 5 minutes per car that is a fucking bargain for keeping as much bullshit degeneracy as possible from infecting Burning Man. No, not 100% coverage, but we should damn well try for it within reason (and no, a few hours at "rush hour" doesn't cut it).

I want solutions that address the current setup. For example, I'd rather see people learn to pack their shit properly and get their cars ready for search when it is time. That means not packing stuff so you have to unload your entire trailer so your coffin-sized cooler can be inspected. That means taking your bikes off the trunk of your car so that you can easily open it up. That means having your shit together and doing your part.

Maybe the gate folk could place signs and notices on the road to facilitate folk getting their shit prepared while they wait. Then add "pulsing" notices (countdown signs) which would also help with idling and getting people back in their cars so they can move the line forward.
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Re: Reducing the line to get in the gate

Postby Rice » Sat Oct 29, 2011 3:50 pm

BBadger wrote:Good hell. This thread has gotten more and more ridiculous as it has progressed. Computerized placement? Footage/wait ratios? What next? Airlifting cars into the playa? Tunnels? Giant X-ray machines?

Newsflash: you're at this event for a whole fucking week. Why are you're scrambling over the remains and feces of a few hours before you actually enter the playa? What is the point of exodus "solutions" for a problem that gets solved by waiting or leaving early a half day or so? Do you really think you can do better when the maximum throughput at exodus (no searches there) is still not enough to move everyone out in under 4 hours?

Like the ticket prices, I think these car searches keep out riff-raff and douchebags. I want stowaways and the degenerate assholes who bring them caught and evicted from the event (blacklisted too). I want boas, pets, plants, fireworks and other bullshit found and the owners sent back to Reno. If that means a paltry sacrifice of 5 minutes per car that is a fucking bargain for keeping as much bullshit degeneracy as possible from infecting Burning Man. No, not 100% coverage, but we should damn well try for it within reason (and no, a few hours at "rush hour" doesn't cut it).

I want solutions that address the current setup. For example, I'd rather see people learn to pack their shit properly and get their cars ready for search when it is time. That means not packing stuff so you have to unload your entire trailer so your coffin-sized cooler can be inspected. That means taking your bikes off the trunk of your car so that you can easily open it up. That means having your shit together and doing your part.

Maybe the gate folk could place signs and notices on the road to facilitate folk getting their shit prepared while they wait. Then add "pulsing" notices (countdown signs) which would also help with idling and getting people back in their cars so they can move the line forward.


I agree completely!

Many people going through gate have trouble with verbal instructions... Sooo, maybe they would do what the signs say. ({snort} not holding my breath on that one.)

What I am seeing is (mostly) people think that the gate process is slowing down entry into the city, and refusing to admit that the participants in line are also contributing to this wait.

{gah!!}

Why not work with gate, stay in line, in your vehicle, pack your stuff with searches in mind and have your tickets in your hand?? Now FUCKING hard is that??

It does not matter how efficient the gate process is if the vehicles in line are a complete cluster-fuck of disorganization and inattention!

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Re: Reducing the line to get in the gate

Postby theCryptofishist » Sat Oct 29, 2011 3:56 pm

The Gate is just a macro-cosm of rush hour in most american cities. I'm amazed by the number of people who think that they are special enough to run red lights or cross when there's only three seconds left before flashing turns to solid. Yeah, it only creates chaos, and makes it harder on everyone. But the people who do that think they're getting away with something. So, it's worth it in their minds.

Okay, off topic rambling, but I had one of these wtf conversations in the past couple of weeks that started with that noting of traffic behavior.
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Re: Reducing the line to get in the gate

Postby bradtem » Sat Oct 29, 2011 4:11 pm

5 minutes per car was not an estimate of what it costs us today. I don't know if a good histogram exists, but often it's hours per person of wait, sometimes it's a breeze-through. The problem is not as trivial as you make it out to be. By my measurement over the years, it's been 10-12 hours each time between leaving the Bay Area and getting to camp. Many factors contribute to that, not just gate wait, but the drive from blacktop to camp is one of the largest expanding factors. Why this matters is that the daylight is not much more than 12 hours long at that time of year, so almost any departure means arrival in camp after sunset. This in turn causes many to spend the night in Reno before. Not that I have anything against Reno but this is a large added factor.

The suggestion of computerized placement is serious, though it would be a fair bit of work. While I have always been in a placed camp (except in 1998) I find little to love about the current system for unplaced camps which is:

a) Early arrivals try to stake out places for others. Some are removed, some are not.
b) People who ignored the firm admonitions in all communications about not coming to the gate before midnight get let in many hours early, and get first crack at claiming space
c) People who did time to arrive at midnight find a long line, and make it to the playa even later to find what's left.
d) Either way most arrive at night, a lousy time to be scurrying around finding space, talking to potential neighbours and setting up camp. Some are delayed enough that the sun rises before they get in, but they are dead tired.

What's to love about that system? Why would you dislike a system where there is a fair and clear allocation (as much as the landgrab as you like) and people arrive at good times to set up, and also balanced over the day (particularly if you give them a means to judge when the wait will be shorter.)

We may want stowaways caught, but we don't want to wait hours to make that happen. Particularly when the reality of the new "no sales at the gate, really, we mean it this time" approach meant that there were extremely few stowaways. As long as those who knowingly carry stowaways have to turn around and go home, I predict there will be very little in the way of sneaking in that can be caught. Burning Man is such a huge effort in time, travel and prep, especially for people coming for the whole week that it's a very rare person who would risk having all in their car turned away to save one stowaway the price of a ticket. Perversely, I can see people risking it for somebody they truly care about if tickets are truly sold out and it's their dear friend's only way on to the playa, but tickets are never truly sold out, there is always going to be an aftermarket. This year that aftermarket was around $500/ticket as the event approached. And as a result, compared to earlier years, almost nobody took the risk.

To reduce gate delays, key things you can do include:

1) Spread out the peaks
2) Find special rewards for volunteers so you have more of them
3) Only random heavy searches when line is >30min (apparently already done)
4) Express lanes for dusty veterans who have sent in a contract agreement regarding all playa contraband. And possibly for carpools. This doesn't just get them in faster, it speeds up everybody because the time saved on not checking them as much means more resources to apply to virgins. (Still get random checks, and failure on random check means never getting the express line again, in addition to other penalties.)

A less "burner ethic" oriented approach would allow people to pay for express line. Again, this is better than it sounds, because now not only do the people who go through express lines free up the time of gate staff to get others through faster, they provide money to pay for gate costs.

In spite of what you might think, the "trust most people, and trust bonded people almost entirely" is the approach used at gates where much more serious stuff goes on than at Burning Man. Most cargo goes in and out of countries un-searched because it goes by bonded carriers who know they will lose their bond and their business if they cheat. And people go via nexus cards. That's how the people who worry about terrorists, illegal immigrants and drugs do it -- even when for them it's a much bigger risk and a less wise strategy.

If you want to keep out "riff-raff and douchebags", however you plan to identify such people, good luck, but this is not the method. (BTW, some of the people who have been among the biggest contributors to the community look just like riff-raff and douchebags.)

Car passes are nothing new either. Drive-in movies use them, in spite of strong normal demands from movie studios to count how many go in.
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Re: Reducing the line to get in the gate

Postby britzbitz » Sat Oct 29, 2011 6:25 pm

Nipple wrote:Now you need an even more expensive ticket, and have people come even earlier on Monday and Tuesday!

... and then you need a third more expensive ticket...

This goes on for a while, until you have someone paying a 128th tier ticket to come to next years festival on the last day of this year.


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Re: Reducing the line to get in the gate

Postby britzbitz » Sat Oct 29, 2011 6:27 pm

stretch80 wrote:From what I have seen, the lineup is like a 1000 kittens. Have you ever tried to herd kittens??


kinda like this http://youtu.be/Pk7yqlTMvp
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Re: Reducing the line to get in the gate

Postby theCryptofishist » Sat Oct 29, 2011 7:06 pm

At least kittens are cute...
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Re: Reducing the line to get in the gate

Postby Simon of the Playa » Sun Oct 30, 2011 7:43 am

i think it should be based on tenure.


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Re: Reducing the line to get in the gate

Postby ygmir » Sun Oct 30, 2011 7:52 am

So, Pavarotti gets in first?
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