Alfred Twu


Why a High Speed Rail Network Would Supercharge the Emerging Maker Economy

One artist's proposal to bring a high speed rail system to revolutionize the shipping industry.

Online marketplaces for secondhand goods, rentals, and custom on-demand manufacturing offer great potential in conserving resources by facilitating reuse, eliminating the problem of unsold inventory, and reducing the need for flashy packaging. However, delivery of these items remains a major challenge. Presently, choices are costly airmail or waiting a week for the truck. However, there is a potential third way: fast trains that overnight products throughout the country at low costs.

A few weeks ago I released a U.S. High Speed Rail map that combined proposals from various agencies and advocacy groups, sparking nationwide excitement and conversation about the possible uses of high speed rail in the U.S. While most discussion has been about passenger service, some have pointed out important freight opportunities. Nathaniel Pendleton, another high speed rail advocate, pointed out that while people might find an 18-hour cross country trip too long, "cargo is more patient." Pendleton has created maps showing potential routes in relation to existing UPS, FedEx, and U.S. Mail sorting hubs. Unlike planes, which only serve these hubs, however, high speed rail freight could also drop off deliveries at smaller cities along the way, with shipments moving from train to train much like data packet switching on the Internet.

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