Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Postal Service Shrinking its Urban Footprint

Numerous news outlets are report the Postal Service's plans to close stations and branches.   Almost every article focus on the potential affect on rural areas. The following two quotes are typical

Washington Post

The U.S. Postal Service plans to save up to $500 million in the next two years as it works to close or consolidate about 2,000 mostly small, rural and rarely visited retail locations, according to senior postal officials.

 Wall Street Journal

The news is crushing in many remote communities where the post office is often the heart of the town and the closest link to the rest of the country.

However, a cursory review of the list released by the Postal Service, shows that the impact of the first 2,000 closures will affect the nation's urban centers and have minimal impact on service to rural America.

The closures of the these locations only make sense for Postal customers if the Postal Service simultaneously expands its use of contract stations and self service kiosks in supermarkets, drug stores and other retail locations as well as expanding the hours of those Post Offices that remain open and the use of mail and web-based provision of services now provided in retail facilities.   Those plans have been mentioned in the past but there has not been a public announcement of a roll out of expanded use of non Postal Service brick and mortar retail access. 

The closures will have the biggest impact on postal employees that are members of the American Postal Workers Union and the National Association of Postal Supervisors.   While the Postal Service has stated that affected employees would have jobs in nearby facilities, there is no guarantee that the nearby facility will be within a convenient commuting distance.  These organizations along with their allies on the Hill will try to fight these actions but given the fact that the first round of closures affect primarily urban areas represented by Democrats in Congress, it is possible that Congressional action to slow the process may not happen in time.

The more interesting question is how will the Postal Regulatory Commission react to this proposal and whether the Commission's review reduces the number of locations that are actually closed. 

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