WASHINGTON (Jennifer Liberto, CNNMoney) — The Postal Service is pushing new developments to use cluster boxes instead of home delivery.
The U.S. Postal Service is marching towards a more “centralized delivery,” where residents pick up their own mail from clusters of mail boxes located in their neighborhood. Local postmasters are sending hundreds of letters to fast-growing communities, warning that cluster boxes will be the way mail will be delivered to new developments.
In the past year, the cash-strapped Postal Service has been asking companies in industrial parks and shopping malls to also adopt this form of mail delivery.
But Rep. Darrell Issa, the California Republican leading the House effort to save the postal service, wants more. He has made doing away with doorstep delivery a key part of his bill, which would require everyone to get mail at a curbside box or from a cluster box.
“A balanced approach to saving the Postal Service means allowing USPS to adapt to America’s changing use of mail,” said Issa, who is chairman of the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee.
Moving away from door-to-door delivery saves a lot of money. Right now, 35 million residences and businesses get mail delivered to their doorstep.
It costs $353 per stop for a delivery in most American cities, taking into account such things as salaries and cost of transport. By contrast, curbside mail box delivery costs $224, while cluster boxes cost $160, according to a report from the Postal Service’s Office of Inspector General.
Delivering mail is the agency’s largest fixed cost — $30 billion. Ending such door deliveries would save $4.5 billion a year. That’s more than the $3 billion it would have saved from ending Saturday mail service, according to government reports.
That’s why ending door delivery has drawn industry support from groups like the Greeting Card Association, which supports Saturday service.
But unions say it’s a bad idea to end delivery to doorsteps and will be disruptive for the elderly and disabled.
“It’s madness,” said Jim Sauber, chief of staff for the National Association of Letter Carriers. “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.”
Yet postal officials say everything’s on the table, when it comes to cost-cutting. Earlier this year, it tried to end Saturday mail delivery, but later reversed its decision.