For as long as any of any of us can remember, the U.S. Postal Service has prided itself on delivering door-to-door. Most of us don't know, however, how much it costs the USPS to hold up this time-honored (and secure, and convenient) tradition: $323 per stop in most cities. This amounts to the agency spending $30 million on home delivery services, with 35 million residences and businesses getting mail delivered to their doorstep.
The proposed solution, familiar to college students and anyone who has had to get their mail from a P.O. box or other centralized place, is neighborhood cluster boxes. Already being phased in in some new developments, the proposal will cut the cost per delivery in half to $160, according to a report from the Postal Service's Office of the Inspector General. Cranberry Township, 25 miles north of Pittsburgh, recently received a letter from the postmaster saying all its new homes would be serviced by cluster units. "Our board supervisors who actually run the township are very concerned about this," said Ron Henshaw, the town's director for community development.
Even though use of snail mail is declining, the USPS has faced opposition to many of its endeavors to reduce or change its service in response to its difficulty making ends meet — it does not receive taxpayer funds, and last year, it lost $16 billion, mostly due to dwindling mail volume and payments into a mandatory fund for future retirees' health care. Recently, it reversed a decision to end Saturday mail delivery after a widespread outcry. If it can't find a way to modify its business model soon, it risks requiring a bailout of nearly $50 billion by 2017.
Even those lucky people living in existing homes with door-to-door delivery may soon see it threatened. U.S. Rep. Darrell Issa (R-Calif.), who has taken an interest in Postal Service reforms, introduced a bill that would require replacing door-to-door delivery with curbside or cluster boxes for existing residences by 2022, with an exemption for people with disabilities. A senior committee staffer said this stronger legislation could bring about annual savings of $4 billion compared to curbside delivery and $6 billion compared to cluster boxes.
The mailing community is divided over moves in this direction. The American Postal Workers Union, in particular, is against it, saying cluster delivery would put the Postal Service at a competitive disadvantage against its competitors, FedEx and UPS, which will continue to deliver at the door. Would you still use USPS if it meant getting your mail delivered to a cluster box, or would you switch services? Will we miss door-to-door delivery, or will it go the way of the milkman? Sound off in the comments.