Closing Postal Service stations and branches has been in the news for months. Although the list started at around 3,200 locations, on September 2 the list — presented to the Postal Regulatory Commission (PRC) for further consideration — has shrunk to 413 locations nationwide after extensive studies, customer input and analysis. The PRC will take no action on the initiative until after Oct. 2, 2009.
Let’s put this in perspective.
These are not stand-alone Post Offices. Station and branches are scattered throughout cities for letter carriers to be closer to the areas where they deliver mail and for residents to be able to make retail transactions close to home.
But populations shift — and so has the business demographics of the Postal Service. Looking at the big picture, 413 station and branches is a small number when you factor in that there are nearly 37,000 Post Offices, stations, branches and contract postal units making USPS the largest retail network in the United States.
Add to this the 56,000 locations such as supermarkets, drug stores and other retailers now selling postage and selected postal services; nearly 18,000 automated teller machines (ATMs) dispensing sheets of stamps; and all the products and services available online at usps.com and you can see that the Postal Service is adjusting the way it does business with customer traffic patterns.
Why is it necessary to make changes?
The Postal Service is the only provider of mail service to every home and business in the country and is committed to providing reliable, secure, affordable postal services with convenient access. But unlike most federal agencies, USPS receives no tax subsidy for operating expenses and relies on the sale of postage, products and services to fund its operations.
The current recession — coupled with the popularity of instant messaging, and online invoicing and bill pay — has taken its toll. Mail volume in 2009 is projected to be as much as 20 billion fewer pieces than in 2008. Mail volume in 2009 will be in the neighborhood of 175 billion pieces of mail.
In spite of dwindling revenues, USPS was able to cut $6 billion from its operating budget in fiscal year 2009 by cutting more than 100 million work hours, closing six district administrative offices, adjusting carrier routes to reflect mail volume, instituting a nationwide hiring freeze, and selling unused and under-utilized postal facilities.
USPS is changing along with the nation it serves to stay fiscally viable and customer oriented.