The U.S. Postal Service is facing some tough choices. Tasked with finding ways to cover huge losses, the Postal Service can continue to raise prices or figure out how to get people to mail more cards and letters.
It also can cut costs. Earlier this year, the service planned to drop Saturday delivery, then abandoned that idea. Now, a House panel is considering a proposal by Rep. Darrell Issa, R-Calif., chairman of the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee, which includes phasing out door-to-door delivery by 2022.
Instead of having letter carriers pick up and deliver mail to doorsteps, route drivers would deliver to mailboxes at the end of driveways and cluster boxes such az those used at apartments and malls.
Financially, that move might make sense, although logistics could keep it from becoming universal.
A report from the Postal Service's Office of Inspector General estimates labor-intensive door-to-door delivery costs an average of $353 per year for each stop. Curbside delivery averages $224 a year, while cluster boxes cost $160.
Multiply that by 54 million curbside deliveries and 40 million cluster boxes plus 37 million stops at mail slots, and it's apparent why delivery costs run in the billions.
Critics worry people who are homebound will not be able to walk to the curb to get their mail. But the 94 million who now have mailboxes must include shut-ins who somehow manage to get their mail.
True, this would pose a hardship for some folks. And yes, Congress saddled the Postal Service with pre-funding retiree health benefits, but that only accounts for about half the $16 billion in red ink last year.
If there were easy, painless solutions to operating in the black, the Postal Service would have done them by now. Aside from enticing people to increase their use of the U.S. mail, changes will have to be made in the postal system. Elimination of door-to-door service may be one of them.