The Mail, in Clusters: Could USPS Doorstep Delivery End?

Under increasing financial pressure, the U.S. Postal Service is considering a plan before Congress that would require delivery to mailbox clusters or curbside boxes in residential neighborhoods.

Neither snow nor rain nor heat nor gloom of night stays these couriers from the swift completion of their appointed rounds … to the cluster of mailboxes for your neighborhood?

The U.S. Postal Service, which recently got such blowback for a cost-saving plan to kill Saturday mail delivery  that it decided to change course, is now working on a plan B that could end door-to-door mail delivery—a change already being implemented in many new residential developments nationwide. More details on the plan:

Already in the works: Back in April, the USPS began implementing a cost-saving plan designed to have mail delivery for newly built homes go not to the doorstep, but to the curb or a nearby cluster of mailboxes for the entire neighborhood. The savings would be  significant, the Postal Service reports: On average, it costs $353 per address per year to deliver mail to a doorstep, compared to $224 for curbside delivery and $160 for cluster delivery. This week, the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform is considering a bill introduced by its chairman, Rep. Darrell Issa (R-CA), that would expand the program to existing homes but allow an exemption for the disabled. A committee staffer says the changes could save $4 billion to $6 billion a year, according to Reuters.

Mail carriers opposed: Two of the key groups that represent USPS employees, the National Association of Letter Carriers and the American Postal Workers Union, have come out against that plan, saying it could put the already struggling Postal Service in a tough spot compared to its private-sector competitors. “It’s madness,” said Jim Sauber, NALC’s chief of staff, according to CNN Money. “The idea that somebody is going to walk down to their mailbox in Buffalo, New York, in the winter snow to get their mail is just crazy.” Postal officials, however, say that due to the dire nature of the situation—the USPS could face bankruptcy by 2017—no option is off the table.

One association in favor: Not everyone’s opposed to changing the bounds of postal delivery. In an op-ed  published in Roll Call, George White, the Greeting Card Association’s postal affairs committee chairman,  supports installing clusters “on a widespread, national scale,” saying it’s a solid alternative to the “misunderstood” proposal to end Saturday mail. “Changing six-day delivery cannot be part of a sustainable solution because it would do little to reform the root causes of the Postal Service’s budget deficit and actually do substantial harm by putting the Postal Service at a competitive disadvantage, accelerating its decline.”

A number of ideas are being considered for the USPS, including further privatization.


Ernie Smith

By Ernie Smith

Ernie Smith is a former senior editor for Associations Now. MORE

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