Q. What do I need to know about arriving at Burning Man?
A. We’re glad you asked!
- Traffic has become a part of the Burning Man experience, and it is up to all of us to make it as stress-free as possible. Carpool or take the Burner Express! Fewer vehicles = less traffic = shorter wait times = better for the environment. Winning!
- Everyone in your vehicle must have a valid ticket for entry. All vehicles driving into BRC (except motorcycles) require a vehicle pass, which must be purchased in advance.
- Beginning Sunday, August 24, we will begin broadcasting hourly traffic reports on BMIR 94.5 at the top of the hour. You can listen on your mobile device via iHeartRadio. We’re also providing real-time updates via Twitter. Follow @BManTraffic for the latest.
- On your way to Burning Man, please drive safely and be considerate while passing through local towns. Speeding, parking on highway shoulders, and unsafe passing are safety hazards and could threaten the future of the event. We are guests in their communities, so be extra courteous and obey the law.
- If traffic stops on 447 or 34, please stay in your vehicle and keep your headlights on at night. These are rural highways and it is hard for oncoming traffic to see you.
- Plan your arrival so that you show up at the Gate after opening. We cannot allow people who show up early to wait in town or on the sides of the highway.
- During peak traffic periods we will be controlling traffic with highway flaggers along Hwy 447 before the Gerlach and Empire gas stations. Past experience shows that long lines at local gas stations have caused unsafe conditions. Once the line reaches the edge of the gas stations, you will be instructed to continue driving. Please fill up before you get on Highway 447.
- As you approach the Burning Man entrance, tune your radio to 95.1 FM for the Gate Area Radio Station. We will be broadcasting up-to-date info about the entry process.
- Drive no more than 10 mph on Gate Road! Speeding causes ruts in the playa surface. And the dust you create makes it hard to see our volunteers in the lanes and for other drivers to see you.
- Stay with your vehicle on Gate Road. If you need to go to will call, your entire vehicle should go with you. Don’t risk losing your friends (yes, it happens).
- All inbound lanes have access to the Box Office. About 1/4 mile before you reach the Gate you will come to a set of small kiosks we call the ‘Apex.’ Gate staff here will direct you to the will call lot.
- Upon reaching the Gate your tickets will be torn and your car searched. If you pack accordingly (and yes, we will want to get to the back of your box truck and have you open that big container) it will make it easier on everyone, which means you get through faster. If you have a large vehicle or a lot of stuff, we appreciate it when you help us during the search. Plan ahead and know what items are prohibited. Please see HERE for items not allowed through the gate.
- If you don’t have a ticket, do not show up at the event. There is a closure order issued by the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) and you must have a valid ticket to be inside of it. If you are at the Gate without a ticket, you will be told to leave or risk citation from the BLM.
- Plan ahead. Read the JRS and Survival Guide, and know what you need for early arrivals. If you are a camp or project expecting deliveries, know that process far in advance.
Q. When is the best time to arrive to avoid those long entry lines?
A. Wait times during the first 36 hours after opening can be five or more hours. If you arrive during the rush, expect a long wait and pack water and snacks for the ride. If the weather gets bad we may have to temporarily close the Gate.
We know you want to experience the dusty playa as soon as you can, but if you can arrive Tuesday or later, you will find your wait time to be much shorter. On all days but opening night, the shortest lines are usually in the early morning hours, generally from 3 a.m.-10 a.m.
Q. What credentials do I need to get through the Gate?
A. Everyone needs a valid ticket to enter BRC. Every vehicle driving through the Gate, except motorcycles, must have a vehicle pass.
Arriving before the Gate opens requires a valid early arrival pass for every person in your vehicle. If you are bringing a mutant vehicle, you must have a copy of the Department of Mutant Vehicles registration. Deliveries require the same credentials as participants; if you are part of a group receiving deliveries, speak to your Burning Man contact in advance.
Q. Can I show up early, before the Gate opens?
A. No! Our permit stipulations issued by the BLM do not allow participants to arrive before the Gate opens, except for those who are involved in set up.
The pre-event period is when we are building the city, which means there are construction sites and heavy machinery that can be dangerous. Participants wandering the playa will delay the set up process. We do not yet have the resources to handle participants (medical, staffing, ice, etc.), and people showing up dearly taxes the resources we do have.
Q. Well, what if I decide to show up early anyway?
A. Your entire vehicle will be turned away and sent back to Reno. We cannot allow participants to be left at the Gate without a vehicle if they do not have an early arrival pass - make sure every person in your vehicle has a valid pass.
When the Gate opens, we give priority to those who show up on time. This means if you show up early and we have to stage you somewhere, you will get in later than if you showed up on time.
Q. Can I drive out to Gerlach earlier in the day and just wait in town or along the road until the Gate opens?
A. This is the worst thing you can do. Under no circumstances should you wait on the side of the road anywhere along Highway 447 or 34, or in Gerlach. This is a serious safety hazard and places our event at risk. The road shoulders need to be kept clear for emergency vehicles, and out of respect for the local residents please do not park in town.
Q. I hear that you sometimes open the Gate early without telling anyone. What’s up with that?
A. The Gate opening time is set by our permit stipulations. In a perfect world where we could control all elements of the environment, traffic and human behavior, we would open the Gate at exactly the same time each year. But this is Burning Man. Sometimes things happen.
The Gate, Perimeter and Exodus Department of Burning Man has the responsibility and authority to manage ingress and egress of participants while also taking into account public and staff safety, real-time assessment of traffic flow on Highway 447 and Highway 34, and vehicle congestion in Gerlach. The reasons for an adjustment to the opening time are many and varied, and could result in either a delay or in us letting some vehicles in early. For the best chance at a smooth entry process, plan your arrival for after the Gate opens.
Q. What if I need to go to Will Call/Box Office?
A. The following steps should help make your Box Office visit smoother:
- Upon arrival, do NOT proceed to the Gate to be searched if you do not have your tickets in hand for all people in your car.
- The exact location of Will Call changes depending on the placement of the city and design of Gate Road. But have no fear! We have set up the process such that you can access the Will Call lot from ANY lane on Gate Road.
- Go to Will Call/Box Office, get your tickets and return to your vehicle.
- Guide your vehicle back into the entry lines via the marked lane from the Will Call lot.
- Proceed to the Gate for vehicle search and entry into the City!
Q. Can I run and get my ticket at Will Call while the rest of my crew waits in line?
A. Please don’t. We see people lose their vehicles all the time. There is a better chance than you would expect that it will happen to you too. And we don’t allow people to walk in the lanes. Take a few extra minutes to have your whole vehicle go into the Will Call lot. It beats standing in the dust for hours trying to find your ride.
Q. I keep hearing about a speed limit of 10 mph on Gate Road. Is that really true?
A. Yes, it is. The faster you drive on Gate Road, the more dust your vehicle kicks up and the more your tires break up the hard packed playa, turn it into fine powder and create deep ruts in the road. Much of that dust ends up blowing into the city during high winds.
Gate staff are in the lanes 24 hours a day, breathing that dust. If you are going too fast, you are more likely to injure our crew. Please obey the 10 mph speed limit!
Q. Woo hoo, I made it to the playa! Can I start the party while I am waiting in line?
A. Nope! If by party you mean break open a cold one, then “no” for sure. Gate Road is subject to driving laws like any other road. You can get cited by law enforcement for having an open container in your vehicle, even if the driver is not the one drinking. Every year people get pulled over and cited. Don’t let this happen to you.
Q. What if I am approved to enter early. What do I need?
A. If you are arriving before Will Call opens (which is Wednesday pre-event at noon) you MUST have a physical ticket in hand. If you show up without a ticket before Will Call opens, you will have to wait at the Gate until your manager or point of contact can deal with the situation. Sometimes this means overnight. No matter how much you beg us, we cannot let you in without a ticket.
You must print your early arrival pass before you arrive at the Gate - we cannot print it for you and we do not accept passes on your phone/computer.
If you are unsure whether you have the right credentials, talk to your Burning Man contact before you leave for the playa!
Q. Hey man, I totally cannot afford a ticket this year. But I plan to get to the Gate and see if I can manifest a miracle through generous gifts from the community. Is that cool?
A. Please don’t. Please make your miracles happen before you get to the Gate. All too often people who end up at the Gate without money to buy tickets will end up trying to sneak in or will start to suffer from dehydration or worse. As much as we feel for your cause, you will not be allowed to sit at the Gate without a ticket. You will probably get mad at us for asking you to leave, but with a little bit of planning and radical self-reliance we can all get what we want.
Q. I know I don’t have the right paperwork, but it’s not very Burner of you to make me wait here for so long. I’ve been on the road for two days and I’m tired, can’t you just let me in?
A. The Gate’s job is to make sure everyone who enters has valid credentials and does not possess any prohibited items. If you show up without these things, we can’t let you in no matter how much you beg.
We will attempt to help you sort out your issue and tell you what your options are. It may take a little time, especially when we are dealing with long lines and managing multiple issues simultaneously, including some that may impact the safety of our crew and other participants. Sometimes we don’t have the time to explain why; sometimes we just need you to follow our instructions at that moment. Remember, all the instructions you’ll get at the Gate are available far in advance on the Burning Man website.
Q. Why does it sometimes take so long to get out of Burning Man? What can be done to make it better?
A. Here’s the dealio: There are a finite number of vehicles that can get out of Burning Man and onto Highway 34 per hour. This is a fixed number, and probably won’t change any time in the near future. In our current configuration, the ONLY THING that can make the wait shorter is to have fewer vehicles leave BRC at the same time (i.e., people spread out their departures and leave at off-peak times).
When most people try to leave BRC on the same day, it creates long lines to get off the playa. This usually occurs when the weather is great or the Temple is awesome.
We most often see this on Monday of Exodus, though this doesn’t happen every year. It tends to go in a biennial cycle….a great year followed by a bad year, followed by a great year, followed by...you get the point.
Reducing the overall number of vehicles by carpooling and Burner Express, along with spreading out departures, are the best ways to achieve shorter lines for Exodus. Eager to beat the rush? Leave before the Man burn. Have some extra time for MOOPing? Leave Tuesday morning.
Make a departure plan for your camp, whether you are a camp of just a few people or a few hundred. Create an internal schedule that spreads out the departures of each vehicle over multiple days and times, especially during non-peak times if possible.
Above all, keep that playa vibe with you! Pack water, snacks, instruments and anything else to make the wait more fun. Have a one hour dance party and meet your neighbors in line. Consider a designated driver just for Exodus so you start the drive on the highway fresh.
Q. When is the best time to leave if I want to avoid the line?
A. Every year is a little different, and some years are so unpredictably different that we hesitate to make a solid suggestion. While Sunday and Monday afternoons used to be the busiest times, we have seen some of the heaviest traffic in recent years in the late night after the Burns. If you really want to avoid the line, leave on a day other than Sunday or Monday.
So how do you pick a time? Listen to the community. If everyone you talk to says they are staying to watch the Temple burn on Sunday night, then Monday is going to have very long wait times. If there is a major storm predicted for the weekend (as was the case in 2010), then a bunch of people will probably leave on Thursday, Friday and Saturday.
Tune into BMIR 94.5 FM for wait time updates at the top of every hour beginning Saturday.
Q. What is this Pulsing thing I keep hearing about?
A. Pulsing is a system of moving vehicles at regular intervals toward the highway on Gate Road to avoid the long slow creep forward that challenges the sanity of even the most patient among us.
With Pulsing, vehicles are allowed to stop and turn off their engines (from 15 minutes to about an hour depending on how close you are to the front), then are “pulsed” forward all at once. We generally implement Pulsing during the peak driving hours on Sunday and Monday.
The explanation as to how it specifically operates gets technical, but if you are interested in how we make it work, see HERE.
Q. Does Pulsing get me out quicker?
A. Nope! The length of time it takes to get out is dictated by the number of cars and the carrying capacity of Highway 34. Pulsing does nothing to affect either of those factors.
Pulsing does accomplish two objectives:
- It makes Exodus more enjoyable for the masses since they are allowed to take a break and mingle with their neighbors during stopped periods. Instead of creeping along, you get to stop for an hour at a time and create ONE HOUR NEIGHBORHOODS! (See a participant’s explanation of this idea HERE.)
- It saves fuel.
Q. What are you doing about lane changing during Exodus, and unfairness along Gate Road?
A. On Fairness: We work very, very hard to set up fair systems on Gate Road and back into BRC. We use mathematical modeling to ensure merge fairness, load balancing, and system stability. And 95% of the time, things work as planned. Occasionally something weird happens:
- A vehicle breaks down and instead of traffic deciding to go around the vehicle, they merge with the lane next to them. BAD!
- Someone moves some cones and starts an unauthorized merge. BAD!
- Someone gets out of their vehicle and tries to set up a system that they think/feel is fair. BAD!
On Lane Changing: Years and years of driving experience tells drivers to change into the lane that is moving faster or is open. And in a normal traffic system, this is what you want drivers to do to ensure system balance. Unfortunately, on Gate Road when a vehicle is stopped and the line behind is not going around them, people from adjacent lanes fill the void left in front of the stopped vehicle.
So what can you do?
- Use all available lanes on Gate Road until you hit the back-up. If you see that there are 8 lanes (which there are), but see only 6 lines of cars and 2 lanes completely open, USE THEM. All lanes on Gate Road during Exodus are outbound lanes, always, always, always.
- Once you are in the 8-lane-wide back-up, if the vehicle in front of you is stopped or broken down, and traffic in front of it has moved on in a Pulse, go around the stopped vehicle. Do not change lanes! Do not merge into the lane next to you. Go around the stopped vehicle, and stay in your same lane.
- f a lane is open next to you because a vehicle is stopped or broken down, despite your inclination, do not fill into it unless an Exodus staff member directs you to. That open space is for the people behind the stopped vehicle! If you merge into an open lane in the back-up, you are making the system unfair and are being a jerk.
- Ultimately we must rely on the community to police itself and ensure their fellow participants are respecting the process. If you see people cheating the system, say something! There is no way for us to monitor all of Gate Road for lane changing...nor do we want to be the traffic police. YOU can help make it fair by informing people about the process and making sure they follow it.
Q. Why can’t you guys just make another exit so we don’t have to wait so long?
A. The answer is simple...all roads lead to the same two-lane Nevada Highway 34/447. All that traffic still has to merge somewhere. Having more exits would not affect how many cars can travel on the one lane out of town, and therefore it would not make your trip faster. It would also be more dangerous to have the merge on the highway when it is not under the control of our Flaggers and staff. Our stipulations with the BLM dictate what the entry/exit point is, and they only allow for one.
Q. Can you allocate a different exit for people going north on Highway 34, and also for people heading north on Highway 447?
A. Currently there is only one BLM authorized exit off the playa. No other exits are allowed by our stipulations. The logistics and staffing requirements to implement an alternative exit for folks headed north on Highway 34 would cost us more than the benefit realized; an extremely small percentage of traffic leaves via 34 North. Our energy and resources will have a greater positive effect on a greater number of people if we focus them on other issues.
Additionally, if we could create a Highway 34 Northbound exit, we run the risk of people abusing it by starting up 34 North, making a U-turn, then heading south. The incentive for them to be dishonest would be large (they would skip the entire Exodus line) and it would actually slow down the Exodus for everyone else because we would have to stop all cars leaving Gate Road to allow them to pass through on Highway 34 South. Folks intending to go Highway 447 North toward Cedarville, Oregon and Washington still have to use Highway 34 like everyone else. There is no benefit to the system in letting them out before anyone else, because they have to share Highway 34 with the rest of the traffic once off-playa (if only to Gerlach, but still the same road).
Q. Why can’t you use both lanes (both directions) on 34 to speed things up?
A. If we used both sides of Highway 34, there would be no way to get vehicles (especially emergency vehicles) from Gerlach to Black Rock City (and to points north of BRC). Besides, those two lanes would need to merge to one at some point (we can’t run side-by-side all the way to Reno!), which puts us right back to where we started. It wouldn’t save time...it would just move where the final merge happens. Remember, there are local residents in the area who still need these roads. It isn’t all about Burning Man!
Q. Is there any way to speed up how fast vehicles get on to the highway?
A. There are a few. The best way is to have positive control of the intersection of the gravel top of Gate Road and Highway 34. We control that intersection on Sunday and Monday with Nevada-certified Highway Flaggers. With their stop/slow paddles, they make it possible for vehicles to enter the highway without stopping to check if it is clear...it is always clear because Flaggers stop all other traffic.
The second way is to run two lanes of traffic right up to the edge of the highway, then quickly alternate them out onto the highway. We do this about 50% of the time...if we did it 100% of the time, we would exceed the carrying capacity of the highway. The speed limit through Gerlach is 25 mph, so if we allowed vehicles to exit the playa more quickly the resulting backups would move from the playa into town, and that could lead to additional traffic issues. This would be bad.
Q. You should set up a system where people can register for a departure time and give them an "express" lane (or some version of a priority/regulated system). Those who miss their window or don’t register would have to wait longer.
A. This suggestion has made its way to us every year for many, many years now. And on the surface it looks very attractive. But, as is usually the case, the devil is in the details. Here are the primary reasons we have not implemented a reservation-based Exodus system:
- Such a system takes a lot of people power (e.g., people to verify departure times, people to direct traffic, people to enforce the system) and a lot of resources (e.g. a registration system, building secure lanes for five miles of Gate Road that would prevent people from jumping into the wrong section); more than we currently have.
- Verifying registration would require slowing traffic before Gate Road, which will in turn slow down the rate at which people can get onto Gate Road. Without a significant redesign, traffic inside BRC could become gridlocked.
- One thing we have learned about Burning Man is people rarely stick to their intended timeline. Camp clean up took longer than planned, you stayed up really late the night before, it took a while to track down your passengers, you couldn’t find your car keys, you just had to visit the ashes of the Man one more time, or myriad other possibilities that are so very common to the Burning Man experience. To get 70,000 people to stick to a specific window of time may very well be the most difficult part of this idea to solve.
- Another thing our Gate experience tells us is that verifying Exodus registrations and enforcing rules will not be a simple process. We will no doubt hear many stories (traffic to get from my camp at 2:00 was worse than I thought, but I really did leave in time! My campmate burned my registration slip in an offering to the Man but this really is my time window! I have a flight that leaves in a few hours, please I need to get out faster!). Each vehicle that pleads their case in turn holds up traffic for everyone else, and this ultimately will cause significant inefficiencies in the system.
- Remember how we said this type of system would require a lot more people power? Despite our calls for help from the community, we continue to struggle to find enough people to manage the bare basics of Exodus (e.g. highway flaggers). We understand most people are tired by the end of the event, and many need to get home. However, in order for us to continue to evolve the Exodus process, we need YOUR help. We need volunteers to help run all parts of this process. Everything that happens in BRC is created entirely by its citizens, including Exodus.
Some of the above issues could be overcome, but taken all together a system like this in an environment like Burning Man would be complex and expensive to implement and considerably more difficult to run efficiently. We will continue to look at options and consider your feedback.
Q. What happens if I just decide to head across the playa and find my own exit?
A. Any vehicles found outside the perimeter of BRC or Gate Road are in violation of the Event Closure Area. Closure Area violations are ticketed by the BLM. They really are out there watching and you will be ticketed. Then you will be returned to the back of the Exodus line. Sounds fun, right? Also, some areas of the playa are thick mud hidden by a seemingly dry surface. Every year vehicles get stuck in that muck trying to escape the line. We laugh and point at the cheaters.
Q. You need to have more people out there during Exodus! Are you guys too busy partying or did you already catch an airplane ride out? (we’ve gotten some snarky feedback over the years, so it seems you want to know about staffing issues)
A. Oh yeah? Well... come on out and join us as a volunteer! Or did you party too hard during the week to come help with Exodus?
All snarkiness aside, staffing during Exodus is a major challenge for us. And it is for the reasons you are thinking. It’s the end of the event. Everyone is exhausted and just wants to go home and take a shower. No one wants to stand out in the sun and the dust. And yet, Exodus can’t run without volunteers. So, sign up and come out. It’s actually quite a fun job with a great crew.
The Exodus & Traffic group is actually one part of the larger Gate, Perimeter and Exodus/Traffic department. It’s managed by the same crew that has been out on the playa for weeks, running a 24-hour operation. So no, we were not partying.
Q. The road out during Exodus was really bumpy. What’s the deal?
A. That’s what happens to the playa when thousands of vehicles drive on it, especially at speeds over 10 mph. We do try to maintain the surface with watering, but watering has its limit. The slower you drive coming into and going out of the event, the less Gate Road is torn up.
Q. What can be done about all of the dangerous lane passing on the highway?
A. We do a lot to educate people of the dangers of passing on Highway 447. And we refuse to believe people who are doing the passing do not know it’s dangerous. They know. They have to. All we can do is keep telling people. Maybe next year we will print a billboard with the image of one of the terrible accidents that occurred on Highway 447 after the event, as a graphic reminder to those who would risk everything to get to Reno 10 seconds earlier. Do you think it would work?
Q. Is there a place I can dump my trash on the way home?
A. There are many authorized locations that will happily take your trash and recycling for you. See HERE!
As tempting as it may seem, you may not dump your trash in privately-owned dumpsters or dumpsters at stores and commercial centers. Every year we get complaints from local citizens about this issue. And if you dump your trash on the side of the highway you are ultimately making others in your community clean up after you, and that is truly unprincipled and lame.
Q. Why do I see trash along the side of the highway after the event?
A. We encourage participants to secure their loads properly. Many do. A small percentage do not. And a small percentage of 30,000+ vehicles is still a lot. Please act responsibly and make sure to pack your loads, including trash, securely!