By Elvina Nawaguna
WASHINGTON, July 23 Under a cost-saving plan by
the U.S. Postal Service, Americans moving into newly built homes
will not have mail delivered to their doors and will instead
have to trek to the curb or neighborhood cluster boxes.
The Postal Service began the change in April, and Congress
is considering an even bolder shift that would also affect
existing houses. It's unclear if delivery to the door will
eventually be eliminated entirely.
"Converting delivery away from door delivery to either curb
line or centralized delivery would enable the Postal Service to
provide service to more customers in less time," Postal Service
spokeswoman Sue Brennan said Tuesday.
More than 30 million American homes get door-to-door
delivery and another 50 million get their mail dropped at their
But the Postal Service, which is buckling under massive
financial losses, sees savings in centralized mail delivery.
Door-to-door delivery costs the Postal Service about $353 per
address each year.
Curbside delivery costs $224, and cluster boxes cost $160
per address. With cluster boxes, mailboxes for individual
addresses are grouped together at a central neighborhood
The move is one of many cost-cutting steps the Postal
Service is trying as it continues to plead with Congress for
permission to overhaul its business and avert a bailout.
The agency also proposed eliminating Saturday mail delivery
but was forced to back off that plan earlier this year after
lawmakers and some industries balked at the proposal.
Representative Darrell Issa, a California Republican who has
spearheaded Postal Service reforms, has introduced a bill that
would also completely do away with door delivery and require
curbside or cluster boxes for existing residences with an
exemption for people with disabilities.
The legislation will be considered on Wednesday by the House
Committee on Oversight & Government Reform.
A senior committee staffer said the legislation could
realize annual savings of $4 billion from switching to curbside
and $6 billion from cluster boxes.
The Postal Service last year lost $16 billion, mostly due to
dwindling mail volumes and massive payments into a mandatory
fund for its future retirees' healthcare.
The agency, which does not receive taxpayer funds, is under
pressure to modify its business model and raise revenues or risk
requiring a bailout of nearly $50 billion by 2017.
The Postal Service's efforts to require cluster boxes for
new residences are being received with trepidation.
Cranberry Township, 25 miles north of Pittsburgh,
Pennsylvania, earlier this month received a letter from the
local postmaster saying that all new homes would be serviced by
cluster box units rather than door-to-door or curbside delivery.
Most new residential construction plans have already been
approved and the change would require going back to the drawing
board, said Ron Henshaw, the town's director for community
"Our board supervisors who actually run the township are
very concerned about this," he said.
Since April, residential developers can no longer choose
between curbside or cluster box delivery, agency spokeswoman
Brennan said. The Postal Service now makes that determination
based on what it considers to be more effective.
The Postal Service has also been asking shopping malls and
business parks to voluntarily convert to centralized delivery.
Some in the mailing community such as the Greeting Card
Association support a switch to a cluster box system.
But others such as the National Association of Letter
Carriers and the American Postal Workers Union oppose it.
Sally Davidow, spokeswoman for APWU, said that moving to
cluster delivery would put the Postal Service at a competitive
disadvantage against its main competitors, FedEx and UPS , which
continue to deliver at the door.