Front-door mailboxes may be phased out

House panel considers change to curbside or cluster box delivery
Associated Press
Jul 25, 2013

Americans for generations have come to depend on door-to-door mail delivery. It's about as American as apple pie.

But with the Postal Service facing billions of dollars in annual losses, the delivery service could be virtually phased out by 2022 under a proposal a House panel was considering Wednesday. Curbside delivery, which includes deliveries to mailboxes at the end of driveways, and cluster box delivery would replace letter carriers slipping mail into front-door boxes.

The proposal is part of broader legislation by Rep. Darrell Issa, R-Calif., chairman of the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee, designed to cut costs at the cash-strapped agency by up to $4.5 billion a year. The Postal Service had a $16 billion loss last year.

The agency has been moving toward curbside and cluster box delivery in new residential developments since the 1970s. The Postal Service in April began deciding whether to provide such delivery for people moving into newly built homes rather than letting the developers decide.

"A balanced approach to saving the Postal Service means allowing USPS to adapt to America's changing use of mail," Issa said. "Done right, these reforms can improve the customer experience through a more efficient Postal Service."

About one in three mail customers has door-to-door delivery, Issa said. The shift would include safe and secure cluster box delivery areas, he said, especially for elderly customers who receive Social Security checks and prescriptions through the mail.

About 30 million residential addresses receive delivery to boxes at the door or a mail slot. Another 87 million residential addresses receive curbside or cluster box delivery.

The cost differences are clear. Curbside delivery costs average $224 per year for each address, while cluster box delivery averages $160. Door-to-door delivery costs the agency about $350 per year, on average.

Sue Brennan, a Postal Service spokeswoman, said, "While converting delivery away from the door to curb or centralized delivery would allow the Postal Service to deliver mail to more addresses in less time, doing so is not included in our five-year plan."

Brennan said the agency's five-year plan does call for shifting 20 percent of business address deliveries from door-to-door to curbside and cluster box delivery through 2016.

Rep. Steve Lynch, D-Mass., said the plan to move some 30 million residential addresses from to-the-door to curbside and cluster box service would be virtually impossible in dense urban areas such as his hometown of South Boston crowded with triple-deckers — three apartments stacked on top of each other.

"You'd have to knock houses down in my neighborhood to build cluster boxes," Lynch said. "This will not work."

It might work in places like Manhattan with big apartment buildings, he said.

"Look, there's no availability for cluster boxes in many communities around the country," Lynch said.

Issa's plan allows for people with physical hardships to get waivers allowing them to keep door delivery. There's also a provision giving people the option to keep door delivery by paying a special fee to cover the additional cost.

Issa's bill also allows the Postal Service to take into account factors such as poverty rates and population density in deciding which areas would be allowed to keep door delivery.

The financially beleaguered Postal Service, an independent agency, gets no tax dollars for its day-to-day operations, but is subject to congressional control.

The Postal Service is pursuing a major restructuring throughout its retail, delivery and mail processing operations. Since 2006, it has reduced annual costs by about $15 billion, cut its workforce by 193,000 or 28 percent, and consolidated more than 200 mail-processing locations.

The service's losses are largely due to a decline in mail volume and a congressional requirement that it make advance payments to cover expected health care costs for future retirees. About $11.1 billion of last year's losses were due to payments for future retiree health costs.

The volume of mail handled by the Postal Service has decreased steadily as the popularity of email, Facebook and other electronic services has grown. Total mail volume handled by the agency fell to 160 billion pieces last year from its all-time high, 213.1 billion in 2006. Revenue fell to $65.2 billion last budget year, from a high of $74.9 billion in 2008.

The Postal Service is considering several options to fix its finances, including negotiations with unions to reduce labor costs and another possible increase in prices.

The service earlier this year backpedaled on its plan to end Saturday mail delivery after running into opposition in Congress. It has tried repeatedly and unsuccessfully over the past several years to persuade Congress to approve ending Saturday mail delivery and to free the service from the advance health payments.

The Senate last year passed a bill that would have stopped the Postal Service from eliminating Saturday service for at least two years and required it to try two years of aggressive cost cutting instead. The House didn't pass a bill.

 

Comments

Contango

Privatize it.

Make Rep. Issa retrieve his own mail from a (bleeping) "cluster box."

starryeyes83

You think people get their mail boxes smashed , now. Just wait... it's bad idea .

I'd rather see Saturday mail dropped.

gramafun

Me, too, but that is just too easy. Just eliminate Saturday mail and see how much they save. I remember when we didn't get mail on Saturday.

2cents

www.slopbuster.com as seen at home and garden show!

YoMamma

Just stop forcing USPS making payments into FUTURE pension funds. The whole system us broke!

Justme...

I lived in a neighborhood with cluster boxes. Seriously, its no big deal. It sounds like they are just talking about moving in that direction with businesses and new development. Relax people. It will be ok.

Perkins2060

Are you people that lazy you can't walk 20 feet to get your mail?

starryeyes83

Did you ever think of people who are not able to do so ?

Just because you can when you're younger doesn't mean you will be able do so when you're older.

Don't ever take your physical mobility for granted.

Because anything can happen at any age.

Justme...

Did you read the article? It says people with mobility problems can get waivers.

Perkins2060

Obviously she can't read.

starryeyes83

I skimmed it.

There again, was your remark necessary?

How long do you think those waivers will last?

Justme...

My guess is until you no longer have a disability, if its like anything else. Seriously...this is not a big deal.

Perkins2060

Yes, my remark was necessary. Read the article before you make a stupid comment.

starryeyes83

Practice what you preach, I was referring to your first stupid comment, moron.

starryeyes83

.

grandmasgirl

Yes, it says that people with mobility problems can ask for a waiver. Kind of like the handicapped placards on cars. Every other person has one. I'm not saying it's a bad idea, and it will get rid of quite a few government jobs. Is that what we want? Get rid of the little workers and keep paying the big shots?

Justme...

The USPS, like any other organization, exists to provide a service, not to provide jobs.

The Big Dog's back

I agree, it's not a big deal. Most small towns require you to have a Post Office box, no home delivery.

kURTje

Most Americans are too lazy to walk. Here is another idea for the USPS also. Cut the OVERPAID people in management. They are top heavy.

bayshore

When the Postal Service was made a separate agency, and NOT funded by tax dollars the only requirement was they earn the money, through sales and services, to meet their business expenses.

Congress then decided that they needed a committee to oversee Postal Management when it came to making any changes to meet the operating directive. By the time the Congressional Postal Commission finally approves Management's requests the problem has compounded.

Add to that the additional mandates and restrictions that Congress has added and they have driven the USPS deeper into a financial hole.

The Postal Service is the only business, private or government, that has been mandated to prepay their employee health care costs for a 75 year period and do it in 10 years. They are funding health care for employees who haven't even been born yet.

When it was discovered that they had overpaid millions into the Civil Service retirement fund, through faulty formulas provided by Congress, they were told they could not get the money back.

All of this jacks up the cost of running the Post Office resulting in higher fees and postage.

How well could you operate a business if you were not allowed to make a decision or a change to your operating procedures until an outside committee approved it?

Congress wants to have their cake and eat it too. They either have to turn over all management decisions to the Postal Managers or take the Postal Service back and fund it with taxpayer money.

Maybe it's time Rep Issa, Marcy Kaptur and all the other members of Congress give up their "Free Postage" perk and start paying to mail their letters.

SamAdams

Get the government out of the USPS. The vast majority of its financial problems stem from government mandates, many of which are nonsensical at best.

Technically, the USPS is already a "private" company. Realistically, it's turned back into a bloated government agency with the insistence on Congressional "oversight," which, in turn (and no surprise) has evolved into Congressional micro-management.

As for cutting Saturday mail, I'm fine with that. But no home delivery is an issue for many and for a variety of reasons ranging from mobility (can you imagine the red tape to apply for a waiver?) to risk (thieves on Social Security check day, thugs after dark waiting for people to collect mail, etc.).

Justme...

These neighborhood boxes all have keys. Its like a post office box station. Again, its sounds like they are talking about moving in that direction for new neighborhoods. It was was truely no big deal. We are talking about a short walk down the sidewalk. My neighborhood had several - not just one. Some subdivisions have them at the subdivision entrance. Unless you are housebound, no big deal because you pass it everytime you leave your house and come home. If you are housebound, you get a waiver. I'm all for scrapping Saturday delivery. And Wednesday, while they're at it.

my oh my

Eliminate Saturday mail since no business can't normally be conducted that day.Also reduce post office hours like in past when PO was only open to about noon.

Perkins2060

Get Sharpton and Jackson on it.