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Monday, July 29, 2013

No more mail at your door? Delivery changes eyed

WASHINGTON 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 approved Wednesday. Curbside delivery, which includes deliveries to mailboxes at the end of driveways, and cluster-box delivery would replace having letter carriers slip mail into front door boxes. The proposal is part of broader legislation by Rep. Darrell Issa, R-Calif., chairman of the Oversight and Government Reform Committee, designed to cut costs at the 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.
The cost differences are clear. Curbside delivery costs an 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.
“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,” said Sue Brennan, a Postal Service spokeswoman.
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, which is crowded with triple-deckers — three apartments stacked on top of one another.
The Postal 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.
The Senate last year passed a bill that would have stopped the Postal Service from eliminating Saturday service for two years and required it to try two years of aggressive cost cutting instead. The House didn’t pass a bill.

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