A scenario for the distribution of goods throughout Northeastern Illinois


By 2036, pockets of Chicago and new centers Naperville and Joliet had become so congested with last-mile delivery vehicles that aerial drones began replacing autonomous vehicle delivery, thus, reducing the need for the sprawling warehousing and distribution centers that populated the Chicago Metropolitan Area throughout the 20th century.

Class I railroads, originally the key to Chicago’s role as a center of manufacturing and distribution, have been largely superseded by platoons of autonomous trucks and trucktrains up to several miles in length. The North American land bridge running from Los Angeles to New York via Chicago is the last remaining profitable railroad that hasn’t transformed into a development company.

It is owned and operated by UPCSX, a merger of the Union Pacific and CSX railroads. To maintain profitability, double-stack container trains traveling the corridor reach up to three miles in length.

Former trackage, their rights of way, and intermodal freight facilities are still owned by BNSF, CN, and other companies, but now they lie fallow, serving as ad hoc nature preserves and wildlife corridors, as nature reclaims the formerly active transportation corridors.

Mobile Markets 

Platooning vans disperse regionally to irrigate markets with fresh produce. At the same time, electronics, furniture, and even autonomous vehicles produced through the vast global supply chain, are also ubiquitous.

The need for social connection and the demand for hyper-specialized goods has assured the viability of in-place retailing throughout the region. Purchases made in person can be located and transferred from a truckhouse and delivered within minutes or hours to any location.

Persistent trade imbalances with China and southeast Asia have led to networked markets for recycling. UPCSX fills empty containers with waste products for return trips.

Truck Riders 

With the ability to detect potential collisions, including wildlife, from long distances, road kill has become largely a thing of the past, thus contributing to overpopulation of certain species. In response to homeowners’ complaints about deer, coyotes, and other large mammals, the states of Illinois, Michigan, and Indiana relaxed regulation and opened new areas for hunting throughout the territory.

The consequent closing of landfills has therefore become a significant planning challenge for public authorities hoping to recoup some value from those sites.

Many former drivers and warehouse workers have developed seasonal hunting and trapping services. They supply on-demand food with fresh meats, catering to the public’s appetite for regionally specific foods. The popularity of locally sourced cuisine contrasted greatly with the nearly complete outsourcing of most other forms of production.

The vast tracts of warehouses abandoned by industrial property developers and third party logistics companies have also proven to be fertile ground for many grey market industries. These vast landscapes of exchange born in the 19th century had served their purpose, and now needed a new role to play in the 21st century. Once separated from our cities and hidden from view, they became testing grounds for new forms of production, and civic life.