Man this would be super cool! Great ideas so far.
I don't think getting there should be easier (the journey, and learning how to make it is half the fun for me and the players I've shown) but the incentives for going could be bigger. I feel like it would have to be automated as a baseline--with puppeted enhancements--like people have suggested. Getting there takes time, and may not gel with having people ready at that moment for puppeting. Also, if a GM is ready and the player isn't there, then the GM has to wait for them to get there. Makes it tricky...
Having wild, non-puppeted NPCs (scorpions, sand-dogs, etc.) that aggro like Park dogs, or even raiders with pistols or something would also make it more dangerous. If the journey was more dangerous, then the reward at the location could be more sweet. Given farming issues, the items claimed from these NPCs could be "status items" that have no real cash value but rather bragging rights.
A courier system that links up the following locations would be cool: that shop near the dome, those buildings out there (hard to talk about without spoiling...) and Mara itself. Maybe you could get some kind of "courier pass" that allows you in and out of the Dome without pay or something? Creating a route to take packages on, and possibly some kind of system to know if someone's running that route, would allow people to set up ambushes outside the dome.
An automated system that requires more players in a group to be effective would be ideal. Here are the obstacles I see right now for Mara plotting:
Per-person cost (in/out of gate)
Expense of San Mara Goods
Expense of moving illegal goods
Availability of same goods, cheaper, in Dome
Player Commitment to travel time (what to do if they have to go afk mid-run?)
Isolation from main playerbase, and difficulty finding other players out in the Badlands
(Not complaining about any of the above! Very themely, but difficult to plot around)
I've been involved in a few "Mara Party" group runs. But with the cost of each player's in/out, and the availability of the goods in the Dome, it often ends up being a charity situation.
An NPC shop in the Dome that buys unique goods from Mara at a solid price, and "reps" badlands style/life in the Dome would be a start. Hell, maybe there's a sic-amp in a bar out in Mara and some guy talks shit about the Dome on it or something. I think the system would have to reward larger groups though, instead of just one guy with a specific vehicle from jamming out there and hoovering up everything.
I've run into a lot of people that want to RP the smuggler angle. It would be SWEET if there was more support here. But it's a damn hard nut to crack.