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Algorithm Challenge: Burning Man Vehicle Exodus 273

Slashdot contributor Bennett Haselton writes: "A year ago, getting ready for Burning Man, I read that the cars in the exit line sometimes have to wait in the sun for hours to get out. I came up with an algorithm that I thought would alleviate the problem. Do you think it would work? If not, why not? Or can you think of a better one?" Read on for the rest of Bennett's thoughts.

As part of my advance preparation for going to Burning Man in 2013, I read on the official site that the car lines to get out of Burning Man often take five hours to get through. Scroll a bit further down and you can find, asked and answered, the question that I thought of after reading about the five-hour waits, and it's worth quoting the whole thing:

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 5 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 50,000 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 cut-and-dried 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 camp-mate 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 that 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.

Bennett again. So I thought about this some more and wondered about a different idea: My question: Why not have a priority exodus line set aside for vehicles who leave during a designated time slot, based on the last digit of their license plate? So for example halfway through Burning Man, a random number or letter would be selected by the organizers — say, "T." During daylight hours on the last day, a priority exit lane is set up where from 6:00-6:30 AM, only vehicles with license plates ending in "T" can exit. Then from 6:30-7:00 AM, only vehicles with license plates ending in "U" can exit. And so on, until you've cycled through all the letters and numbers. (The initial letter in the cycle — in this case, T — would have to be selected after the event starts, to prevent people from gaming the system in advance, by bringing in vehicles with plates deliberately chosen to get an early exit time.) And then you have a second, longer line for everybody else who doesn't want to leave in their designated time slot.

This has a number of desirable features:

  • It avoids most of the problems described in the FAQ — you don't have to "create" a registration system, or stop cars in order to verify their registered departure time. All you need are observers for the priority exit lane watching to see that the cars in that lane have the correct last digit of their license plate. (Since all exiting cars are passing through the same bottleneck, you only really need one or two observing at a time to glance at license plates.) And if an observer spots a cheater, they don't have to throw their body in front of the vehicle, just radio ahead to tell someone further down the road that there's an unauthorized car in the priority exit line.

  • It's difficult to cheat. You could try to hack the system by bringing multiple sets of license plates to Burning Man and then, after the departure times have been announced, putting the earliest-departure license plate on your car. However, apart from the fact that this is illegal (which never stopped certain recreational activities at Burning Man, after all), there would be diminishing returns from loading up on too many extra license plates. If you want a guaranteed exit in the first 9 hours, then out of 36 sequential time slots, you'd only need 4 different license plates to guarantee an exit in one of the first 9 slots. But if you wanted a guaranteed exit in the first 3 hours, then you would need 12 different license plates, and so on.

  • Most importantly, and this is the whole point, would reduce the amount of time waiting in the exit line, for drivers that opted to use this system. Under the existing system, with a single queue that anyone can enter at any time, the queue grows to a length at which the inconvenience of the long wait is just barely outweighed by the desirability of getting out (an equilibrium which apparently sometimes causes the lines to grow to up to five hours). By dividing the population into segments by last digit of license number, those drivers are only queueing up with 1/36th of the rest of the population, and so can expect a faster exit time.

In the theory of queueing, if a population is sufficiently large, then when users are queueing for a desirable resource, the queue will grow until the cost of waiting in the queue is just barely outweighed by the benefits of the resource at the end of it. (Steven Landsburg explains in the opening chapter of The Armchair Economist that if a sufficiently large town opens a free aquarium, the line to get in will grow to the point where the inconvenience of the line exactly cancels out the benefits of the visit, so the benefit to the citizens' lives will be exactly zero.) Interestingly, this means that for the Burning Man exit queue, if you simply divide the queueing population in half — say, by allowing cars with even license plates to exit in the morning, and cars with odd license plates to exit in the afternoon — then you won't accomplish anything, because each half-size population will probably still be large enough that the queue grows to the point where the convenience of getting out just barely outweighs the inconvenience of waiting in line. It's not merely that dividing the population in half wouldn't accomplish as much as dividing it into 1/36th slices; it's that dividing the population in half would accomplish nothing at all. To make the queue shorter, you have to divide the population into sufficiently small slices that there is no longer a large enough population in each slice, to make the queue swell to the point of convenience-cancelling equilibrium. The simplest way I can think of to do that would be to split up the car population into 1/36th by last license plate digit.

It's important to note this does not actually increase the rate at which drivers can exit from Burning Man, which is actually a limit set by the Bureau of Land Management at 1,000 cars per hour. No algorithm can get around that limit. The algorithm only aims to reduce the amount of time that cars spend waiting in line to get out (in the hot sun, some with broken air conditioners). If you want to use the prioritized queue but you know that your time slot won't come around until 2 PM, you can spend the time until then exploring what's left of Burning Man, learning and making new friends, instead of getting in line at 10 AM just to get out by 2.

In any case, this isn't my problem, since I took the Burner Express bus in and out of Burning Man and would plan on doing it again. But while I was preparing last year, I went ahead and posted the question to ePlaya, the Burning Man message boards ("playa" being another word for dry lake and the nickname for the physical location of Burning Man). Some of the respondents were convinced that "Bennett Haselton" was an elaborate troll (you guys would get along), although I mostly got people saying, "The organizers have had years of experience doing this, why not wait and see it in person before trying to 'solve' it." Well, I was kind of asking for it, admitting that I had never been to Burning Man before, posting in a forum frequented by grizzled veterans, claiming that from my ivory tower on high, I had divined a solution to a problem that others had been working on for decades. (Of course, none of these are valid reasons why the idea is wrong.)

But anyway, I took the advice in the replies: as I was riding out of Burning Man in the Burner Express bus, I glanced out the window as we passed a mile of non-moving cars waiting to get out. I still don't know what I was supposed to see that would illustrate why the license plate prioritization system would a bad idea. What do you think? Or do you have a different idea?

Then again, maybe it doesn't matter how objectively "good" an idea is, if change is just plain hard. In another thread that I started after Burning Man was over, I said that the porta-potties seemed to work fine but that the dispensers next to the porta-potties, mounted on wooden stakes stuck into the ground, were almost always empty. They could easily attach more dispensers to the posts, or set up more posts (as long as the maintenance company kept replenishing the dispensers with the same frequency), at a cost that would be almost nothing relative to the cost of maintaining the porta-potties in the first place. Even that suggestion was met with fair bit of snark, although eventually someone gave me the email address where I could send feedback like that to the Burning Man organizers. So I sent the hand sanitizer suggestion to the feedback address, but don't hold your breath (except in the porta-potties).

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Algorithm Challenge: Burning Man Vehicle Exodus

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  • by tomlouie ( 264519 ) on Friday April 04, 2014 @11:01AM (#46660909) Homepage

    TDLR: "I think I have the answer, why doesn't anyone listen to me?"

    • by kruach aum ( 1934852 ) on Friday April 04, 2014 @11:12AM (#46661045)

      I see you have cracked the Bennett Haselton code! All of his posts are like this, all of them get a platform they don't deserve, and I still don't know how he manages to get them there. What kind of skeletons does CmdrTaco have in his basement?

    • by vought ( 160908 )

      Because like most people who have something to say about Burning Man, this guy only understands half od what he's talking about.

      The principal constraint has nothing to do with moving vehicles off the playa. It is Washoe County road 34, which is a narrow, poorly-graded two lane road that goes to Gerlach, there it joins with Nevada SR 447, a wider, less poorly-graded two-lane highway that runs through a town of less than 500 people. From there, it's still 90 minutes to Interstate 80.

      Old US 49, Jungo Road, can

  • by Anonymous Coward on Friday April 04, 2014 @11:04AM (#46660941)

    Can we get a fucking explanation for why Bennett Haselton gets to post his half-baked ideas on Slashdot instead of having links to his blog like everyone else?

    In particular, I want to know whether he has paid for the privilege. If so, his posts are essentially paid advertisements and you ought to disclose that fact. And if not, perhaps you could replace him with someone smarter and more interesting, like Bruce Schneier.

    • by squiggleslash ( 241428 ) on Friday April 04, 2014 @11:36AM (#46661271) Homepage Journal

      For a long time, there's been a dispute between the admins of Slashdot, who wanted it to be taken more seriously in its own right by hosting content, and the users, who generally feel Slashdot's columnist choices leave a hell of a lot to be desired. Everyone remember Jon Katz? Exactly.

      BTW, as I understand it, the best algorithm to deal with traffic at Burning Man is a Hash Table. The joke is somewhat obvious so I'm just going to leave it at that.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Friday April 04, 2014 @11:04AM (#46660945)

    The problem is not getting off the playa, it's the 70 miles of single lane road that gets backed up (and often closed due to accidents). The lines to get out are there to feed a manageable amount of traffic onto the 447 highway.

    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by leptons ( 891340 )
      This is the correct answer. The other biggest problem is everyone wanting to leave at the same time. Staying an extra day and leaving at 6am will get you right out of the gate with no wait at all.
    • This AC nailed it. The OP up above was written by a first-year, barely-contributing Burner. He took the Burner Express...otherwise known as the "Sparkle Pony Express" because people can't bring that much stuff and typically the people on it are tourists -- people with little connection to Burning man, who contribute little, just coming to check out the party and bless us with their presence.

      Bennett really has no idea what he's talking about here and very little Burning Man experience...word to the wise,

      • I was in the Totenkitten camp and worked multiple three-hour shifts helping to keep the Charcade running.

        I assume the people who run the big projects like that want a certain number of people to come to Burning Man who volunteer with existing projects instead of running their own, because otherwise where are you going to get the volunteers from?

        Yes, you can't bring that much physical stuff on the Sparkle Pony Express a.k.a. Burner Express bus. That means it's probably best for people who want to contri
        • In that case I retract my comments about barely-contributing and will make it "typical first year contribution." Most of the people working "shifts" in various camps are new to Burning Man. Eventually, most second- or third- year plus Burners will either stop going, or stop trying to build someone else's dream and make their own offshoot camp/project/etc.

          I've got news for you though -- most of the people who run big projects (I've been a core part of two Esplanade theme camps, and now helped build an a

    • I addressed this in the paragraph beginning "It's important to note this does not actually increase the rate at which drivers can exit from Burning Man..."

      Regardless of whether the bottleneck is in place at the exit of the playa or in the single lane road leading away from the playa, the goal of the algorithm is not to increase the exit rate. It's to reduce the amount of time people have to spend sitting in their cars (as opposed to wandering the playa on the last day making new friends, etc.).
      • You really are a tourist, eh? Monday at BM, during breakdown is not really the time you make "new friends"..it's usually a frentic and desperate effort to cleanup moop, burn any burnables, pack up vehicles, etc etc. The only people wandering around looking for "new friends" are tourists who don't have anything to pack up or camp responsibilites to attend to.

        Last year, the year you went, DPW advised everyone to get off the playa due to the threat of rain....that's why the line was so long -- there was

  • The fundamental problem seems to be the bottleneck of cars getting onto the highway. By creating a priority lane you'll be reducing the number of cars/minute that are able to leave via the regular lane. Additionally there will likely be some switching inefficiencies introduced with the new lane merge.

    So some cars will get out faster, other cars will get out slower (as the non-priority cars wait for the priority cars to pass them and leave), I think we'll see average car wait time increase here. The extra la

    • by gewalker ( 57809 )

      As is often the case, the real answer is the monetize the solution. Charge for parking access / egress priority rights. Those in first class pay more, but get to exit first. The money problem solves how you get the resource for parking attendants, etc. needed to enforce the rules.

      Now, you may even collect enough funds to make it worthwhile to improves the access to the local highways to increase flow rates significantly via additional lanes, etc.

      A bunch of hippies won't like this solution, but they are prob

      • A bunch of hippies won't like this solution, but they are probably used to it by now.

        Works for the Rednecks at NASCAR races, why not for the this?

        Only, I'd add that for the individual driver, you can choose to travel off peak. Leave early (Like the NASCAR fan that doesn't stay to watch the last 10 laps or so) or plan to stay until the rush is over (i.e. the NASCAR fans that bring the camper and don't leave until the next day.)

      • I have to think that anyone wanting to leave quickly has a helicopter fly in a driver and fly out with them.

        So the mined already have an express out, good enough for me.

        Otherwise you came to enjoy the desert and a lot of people, so Exodus just sounds like more of what you came for.

    • I think this would be a problem on a normal road merging two lanes of traffic, but Burning Man exodus already works by "pulsing" -- a whole bunch of cars move forward and leave, then everybody waits a while, then a whole bunch more cards move forward and leave, etc.

      With "pulsing" (as opposed to a normal merge of continuous traffic), it seems like you could avoid the inefficiencies of the lane merge, because you could just alternate pulses from lane 1 and lane 2.
  • by OzPeter ( 195038 ) on Friday April 04, 2014 @11:07AM (#46660991)

    The first point of the quoted FAQ still applies, as do pretty well most of the others.

    And why the fuck do we care about micro-optimising the Burning Man departure queue? If the Burning Man forums don't care (and I take it that those forums are where all the affected people hangout), why should /. suddenly decide that its an intellectual problem worth solving? It just smacks of Karma Whoring and being butt-hurt from being rejected by the Burning Man forums.

  • by Anonymous Coward

    ...this makes no sense. I'm glad I've never bothered with it. I mean, the fact that it takes so long to get something as simple as leaving dealt with kind of proves that this event lacks:

    - communal effort
    - civic responsibility
    - participation
    - immediacy

    You know, all that crap the wikipedia page lists. Perhaps you should just ask Disney World, they manage to move over 30,000 cars every busy day and it sure as hell doesn't take them 5 hours. Oh wait, that's the opposite of w

    • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

      by jareth-0205 ( 525594 )

      ...this makes no sense. I'm glad I've never bothered with it.

      Ah... /.er admitting knowing nothing about something and then having judgemental opinion anyway. Christ this site is frustrating sometimes.

  • by raymorris ( 2726007 ) on Friday April 04, 2014 @11:08AM (#46661005) Journal

    The license plate thing probably would reduce the wait. The wait could be more organically reduced by holding some event or two shortly after the time people are currently leaving, so that some people stick around a bit longer.

    I don't know exactly what would be appropriate at what time, but let's say the traffic jam is really bad from 9AM-10AM. Schedule to announce the winner of the biggest bud contest at 10:00, and give away a ______ at 10:30. People staying for those two things would level out the traffic outflow.

    • by spasm ( 79260 )

      The 'holding some event after the time poeple are leaving so some people stick around longer' is sort of what happened - in the early days everyone used to leave on sunday (the man was tourched on saturday night) then the group who build a structure called the temple each year started burning that on sunday night, so for a couple of years departure was spread across sunday and monday as half the attendees continued to leave on sunday and the other half stuck around to watch the temple burn then left late su

    • That's a pretty neat idea... Although you may still run into the problem I mentioned about how you have to sub-divide the group into pretty small segments before the benefits kick in (see the paragraph starting "In the theory of queueing...").

      To oversimplify a bit, suppose 50% of people want to leave Sunday morning and 50% want to stick around for your blunt contest and then leave in the afternoon. As long as those populations are still both sufficiently large, the queue will still grow to the point wher
  • Your system has the disadvantage of requiring at least three more people as manpower - a spotter to spot issues, and a two stoppers - with a vehicle to block the cheater. They mentioned having problems filling the bare necessity of flaggers, so this won't work.

    Another issue is what happens when people cheat. Pretty much the only punishment the blockers can do is to physically prevent anyone at all from using the fast exit lane.

    My best suggestion to deal with this issue is simple - money. That is, tell

    • Re: (Score:2, Informative)

      by ThatAblaze ( 1723456 )

      Burning man is specifically anti-money. Buy your way to the front solutions have no place there.

      • Like I said, probably not an acceptable solution.

        Of course, it also points out the flaws in Burning Man.

        If you don't want to do X, then you look stupid complaining about Y when X is an obvious solution.

    • Well with the priority line, cars spend proportionally much less time in the queue. That would presumably reduce the number of necessary flaggers, which would free up some people for the other flagging jobs.

      Not sure how they handle people "jumping the line", but presumably with the existing egress system there is already a way to stop people jumping the line.

      I think your money idea would work, and that's what I would do too, but I assumed it was off the table because of the anti-money mentality as you
  • Enforcement (Score:4, Insightful)

    by ZombieBraintrust ( 1685608 ) on Friday April 04, 2014 @11:11AM (#46661031)
    I don't see how you could enforce the priority lane. Suppose someone stubburn pulls into the lane without the proper plate. What do you do? Push their car into a ditch? You either have big argument while one of you lanes is closed, use violence, or have it work on a honor system and hope the cheaters don't cause a pile up.
    • by LordLimecat ( 1103839 ) on Friday April 04, 2014 @11:15AM (#46661087)

      Absurd. Youre implying that people attending Burning Man might have issues subscribing to a system of norms and rules? I dont believe it.

    • I don't see how you could enforce the priority lane. Suppose someone stubburn pulls into the lane without the proper plate. What do you do? Push their car into a ditch? You either have big argument while one of you lanes is closed, use violence, or have it work on a honor system and hope the cheaters don't cause a pile up.


      A big one.

    • "stubburn"... I see what you did there

      But I figured the existing egress system has to have a way of stopping cheaters as well, so it would work the same either way.
  • by jnelson4765 ( 845296 ) on Friday April 04, 2014 @11:14AM (#46661067) Journal

    Speaking as someone who's gone for a few years, and now volunteer at the event, I can give you the perfect answer.

    Join the Exodus team, help run the traffic outflow, and you'll get a better reception than some random dude on a web forum. We are a do-ocracy - do shit, and you'll eventually be in charge of it if you can handle it and not get burned out.

    And also, fuck ePlaya - that place is full of trolls and assholes and burnier-than-thou cranks.

    • Speaking as someone who's gone for a few years, and now volunteer at the event, I can give you the perfect answer.

      So, is it still worth going? I've never been, but it's on my list for the future. Should it be? What's the best (and worst) thing(s) about it?


      • by mcappel ( 776700 )

        So, is it still worth going? I've never been, but it's on my list for the future. Should it be? What's the best (and worst) thing(s) about it?

        Yes. It's still worth attending.

        The art is amazing. It's unlike any other. Some is utter crap, but for the most part, the art is difficult to describe in type and scale.

        The art cars and art bikes are also unlike anything elsewhere. Imagine steampunk, but operational. With flame effects.

        The raves are fine if that's what you like. I don't, so I ignore them.

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by mcappel ( 776700 )
      Haselton, what jnelson4765 said.

      Join the Gate Perimeter & Exodus Dept., work in the lanes for a few shifts, and then I imagine you would see the enormous flaw in your proposal. All participants need to buy into any Exodus plan, and abide by its rules voluntarily. This is spelled out in the FAQ. I doubt all participants would abide by your idea voluntarily, and once a few start busting lanes, everyone else will and all hell breaks loose.

      The GPE people, and I'm one of them, work hard to make event e
    • by davecb ( 6526 )
      To be fair, he's proposed a classic solution to a queuing problem, albeit from outside. My usual response to "I suggest X" in such a scenario is a quick sanity check followed by "do you volunteer to implement it?"
  • by Anonymous Coward

    My algorithms:

    Lave early before the rush.

    Hang out until everyone else leaves - like I do on airplanes.

    Nothing fancy. Sometimes not being as smart pays off.

    • Works for the Rednecks at NASCAR races... Plan ahead and figure on waiting unless you leave before it's over.

  • Ok, so you want something better than "we don't care" for a response. Your plan has a serious flaw: Not all license plates follow your pattern. In Oregon in particular the format is letter letter letter space number number number.

    Also, leaving is a social experience. If you haven't learned to appreciate waiting in line by the end.. well.. you haven't really been there. Part of it is surviving, and surviving the line at the end is just the last step.

  • I'm still looking for you guys to give me an answer on how much I have to pay to get front page placement like Bennett?

  • Not being American I have no idea how your license plates work but it seems to me the idea mentioned in the article is dependant on there being an equal amount of cars in each group. What happens if there are 10 times as many people with cars whose plate ends with a 'T' than those that end with a 'U'

  • by SvnLyrBrto ( 62138 ) on Friday April 04, 2014 @11:25AM (#46661177)

    The Burning Man organization just doesn't want to solve certain problems with the event. Entry and exodus are big ones.

    Entry has even more obvious solutions to the problems. But they are absolutely uninterested in solving it because it would involve making changes, and the entry procedure is "traditional'. Also, speeding things up would involve taking away certain peoples' ego trips; like the pointless and milquetoast "searching" of incoming vehicles that's not really a search and never uncovers contraband, but lets the "searcher" assert his au-thor-a-TAH over the "searched". Seriously... a friend of mine once entered with a crate full of illegal, and against BM rules, fireworks sitting openly in his van in full view of the people "searching" it, and they just waved him through! They could also cut out the, once again, "traditional" routine of making everyone get out of their cars AGAIN to ring the bell, get hugged by a hippie, and make the first-timers roll around in the dirt. But those people, too, have made their niche for themselves in the BMorg, and damned if they'll give it up, and to hell with the attendees who've just spent 14 hours stuck in their cars and would just like to get to camp and take a break.

    I've never really payed attention and gotten all riled up at exodus; mainly because I've at atypical hours the years I went and didn't get stuck in major hold-ups. But I expect that there are similar improvements that could be made.

    Hell, all they'd have to do is send the managers of entry and exodus down to Anaheim for a weekend and tell them to watch how Disneyland gets a Burning-Man-sized crowd in and out EVERY DAY, with hardly ever a delay, then bring back the knowledge and re-implement it. But there's no interest across the organization in fixing the problem.

    • Your Disney point is spot on. I attended a talk by thier head of parking a couple of years ago and he indicated that Disney is legally allowed to "only" park 3,600 cars per hour on the property but when things get busy they can park over 5,000 cars per hour. That is amazing. More than a car per second with usually no wait at all. That is impressive! Not only that but the cast members that work in parking are always extremely helpful, polite and happy.

  • You can't limit the exit queue by having to check for anything, even a plate's last character.

    The only realistic way to do this is to have the "algorithm" parallelized and distributed among all the participants.

    Instead of enforcing some kind of single point of exodus regulation, you have each individual vehicle calculate the best time for leaving.

    It works like this: you watch the line. If its too long (for you) then don't get in line.

    With cooperation and with the diversity of people, you could in theory t

    • by njnnja ( 2833511 )

      Something like this is probably the best idea. Or simply put up a big sign that says "Expected time to exit is [ ] hours". You can update that sign however frequently you want. People will make their own decisions about their own time management. If they don't want to wait in line for 5 hours, then they won't get in line when the sign says you will wait 5 hours.You won't need to coordinate with organizers or anything, just watch and update.

      • Yes, people act cooperatively like the OP said. And yes, there are frequent announcements on the radio about what the expected wait time is. Finally, yes, the best solution is probably to make no changes.

  • If you go to burning man, you're a tool and deserve to wait in line. :-p

  • by JanneM ( 7445 ) on Friday April 04, 2014 @11:32AM (#46661253) Homepage

    The post says the total number of exits is fixed. You're just shuffling the order of the queue. A limited benefit, if any benefit at all - the people in the general queue will wait even longer, with more breakdowns and medical emergencies as a result.

    And the post itself mentions the solution: Make off-site parking more viable so more people get in and out on buses. That would benefit everybody, rather than pitching one subgroup against another.

    • What you want to do is evaluate when a peak time is, and encourage the spreading out of departures. And a fast lane can encourage that. But I think use of color cards with a time is far easier and simpler than a registration. Drive in, handed your random color card, trade card with someone else for a more desirable time, use fast exit.

    • Unfortunately, that wouldn't work; at least not for reasonable people. Remember, Burning Man takes place in an otherwise uninhabitable desert. You're required to bring everything, including water, you need to live in that desert in with you; and cart it out, along with your trash, at the end of the week. That's not too difficult if you have a car. With a bus? Your 60-person bus just became a 12-person bus when you add in peoples' supplies and gear. It's not much of an improvement.

      Of course, there's the opti

  • by dbIII ( 701233 )
    Wasn't there a bus from a company called something like green tortise tours that was taking people to and from Burning Man for many years?
    I know it's the land that invented the drive-thru but surely you can apply a bit of alternative thinking and leave that SUV at home to get to an alternative festival. Even cutting the number of vehicles by a quarter would make a difference.
    • Most people have to haul in and then back out the supplies that they needed in order to survive for a week in the desert. Busses only work for the small subset of people who got someone else to manage their supplies.

  • Camp out one more night, leave the next afternoon and avoid the mass stampede.

  • Your system is unenforceable. Or at least about as enforceable as the "10 items or less" lane at the checkout. Or rather, it is enforceable if you want to hire a bunch of jack-booted thugs with arrest authority to keep everyone in line, but that sounds like something outside of the spirit of Burning Man.

  • I think I have a better idea, since the problem is to wait in the queue for hours:

    - Just one lane, with a known 1000 vehicles/hour limit.

    - Have 3 or 4 "small" buffer parks (500 vehicles each) to wait with better conditions than in the main waiting line.

    - Note: each vehicle in a proxy encampment has left its own main camp, so everything is packed, done, the driver has the key, etc.

    - Every 30 mn, give the go for the next batch, so they start queueing, if someone stays the park (lost key or driver somewhere el

  • by Darth Muffin ( 781947 ) on Friday April 04, 2014 @11:59AM (#46661561) Homepage
    1. People frequently travel in groups. If your camp of 4 cars wants to travel together and leaves at the same time, who's plate do you go off of?
    2. If you're in the 5am block and the rest of your camp is in the 4pm block, how are you going to break camp?
    3. How are you going to enforce this? Needs people to do so.
    4. What do you do with people who don't want to participate in the license plate lottery? Again, requires more people and a place to put them.
    5. Still will have the problem of people who think they're special with exceptions as to why they need out now, why they missed their window, or why they should be allowed in a different time slot. This takes people and slows things down.
  • Isn't the whole event in the SUN to begin with??!?

    I realize the point is traffic flow, but whether you're waiting in line, or waiting to leave your spot, you're still in the friggin' sun!

  • busses are far more efficient means of transporting people into and out of anywhere. they have a lower carbon footprint than hordes of cars as well. Carpooling to a lesser extent also helps. Not holding your asinine art-pop circle jerk in the middle of nowhere is also a spectacular start to a better commute.

    but whatever you do, stop trying to arithmatically justify your american fetish with driving everywhere. Cars do not scale.
  • This idea is basically a super-simple hashing algorithm, which are commonly used to turn big hard problems into smaller easier ones.

    I see no arguments against this guy's ideas, just ad-hominem attacks and people being insulted that someone try and come up with new solutions to old problems. Don't be that guy. If it won't work, explain why.

  • When people arrive, they are randomly given a color ticket with a time stamp.

    Red = 4pm
    Green = 11am
    Blue = 1pm
    Purple = 6pm


    These get to go through preferential lines in their respective hour. People get what they get. But here's the thing, if I got a 4pm Red but I'm leaving in the morning. I'll try to find someone to swap with, and if I want to stay later, I'll see if I can swap my blue for your purple.

    Registration is WAYYYYYYY too long. Handing a simple pass makes it extremely easy. You allow the desire

  • 1) Clueless submitter: Hey I have a solution!
    2) Burning Man: All the reasons why it is, in fact, not a solution.
    3) Clueless submitter: Re-sends idea from (1) with more lipstick
    4) Slashdot scrum ensues.
    5) Profit? (Who, exactly?)

    What's even worse is the Slashdot commenters who thought there still wasn't quite enough lipstick on (3) and added their own to it.

  • You know, like the "why your anti-spam idea won't work" form. Needs stuff like:

    ( ) Your idea will only reduce traffic capacity
    ( ) License plate numbers don't work that way
    ( ) License plate numbers are not random, only which vehicle they are on is random
    ( ) Requires everyone to keep track of a small slip of paper over the period of a few days in a campsite
    ( ) Fails to account for people being delayed moving between their campsite and the exit
    ( ) Requires more people directing traffic than are inside the vehicles being directed
    ( ) Any satellite with sufficient resolution is not geostationary and unlikely to be over the playa at the right moment
    ( ) The NSA really doesn't care about Burning Man, really


  • Because nothing says "Burning Man" like stringent adherence to an authoritarian algorithm.

  • Bennett again.

    Funny, that's what I was thinking. With appropriate trailing punctuation.

  • So I've heard. The BM guidebook/FAQ says dont count on it. It is in the middle of a desert after all.
  • One big problem with this approach is that ending characters on license plates will not be uniformly distributed. In California, for example, all non-vanity plates end in a number. In Nevada for the longest time they strictly ended with a letter. Now you have to consider that wherever Burning Man is held, the local license plate templates are going to dominate and your queues are going to clump accordingly.

    I think before you can have credibility in submitting such an algorithm to them you really need to
  • not. even. once. i call "cuban slashdot"
  • A five hour wait to exit is not the problem. The problem is a five hour traffic scrum, with cars inching forward and jockeying for position all the time. The "solution" is to bring the scrum to a control point that oscillates between open and closed with a large period, so that traffic comes to a complete stop and people can relax for while, shut off engines, take a pee break, switch cars with a friend, and so forth. Then open the control point, everyone gets back in the cars and the scrum resumes. Since th

  • ...is that the main barrier to efficient algorithms for exiting Burning Man would boil down to "Rules are a drag, man."

    • BM has lots of rules.. made up streets, leave no trace rules, public bikes which people manage not to steal. People at BM follow rules a lot better than people in your average rural town. Your ridiculous assertion is obviously based on something you saw on TV. Southpark perhaps?

  • But I was in line for the express lane at 6:30, I swear!

  • Remember the gatherings at Ferry Bar Park in Baltimore? Or the weekend drum-oriented jams in San Francisco's Dolores Park? I used to go to that kind of thing, but no way I'm ever going to go to something as huge as Burning Man. Not my thing.

Happiness is twin floppies.