Could front-door mail delivery be phased out?

Letter carrier Diosdado Gabnat moving boxes of mail into his truck to begin delivery at a post office in Seattle. (AP Photo/Elaine Thompson, File)
Letter carrier Diosdado Gabnat moving boxes of mail into his truck to begin delivery at a post office in Seattle. (AP Photo/Elaine Thompson, File) (AP)
Posted: July 26, 2013

WASHINGTON - Americans for generations have come to depend on door-to-door mail delivery. It's about as American as apple pie.

But with the Postal Service facing billions of dollars in annual losses, the delivery service could be virtually phased out by 2022 under a proposal a House panel was considering Wednesday. Curbside delivery, which includes deliveries to mailboxes at the end of driveways, and cluster box delivery would replace letter carriers slipping mail into front-door boxes.

The proposal is part of broader legislation by Rep. Darrell Issa (R., Calif.), chairman of the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee, designed to cut costs at the cash-strapped agency by up to $4.5 billion a year. The Postal Service had a $16 billion loss last year.

The agency has been moving toward curbside and cluster box delivery in new residential developments since the 1970s. The Postal Service in April began deciding whether to provide such delivery for people moving into newly built homes rather than letting the developers decide.

"A balanced approach to saving the Postal Service means allowing USPS to adapt to America's changing use of mail," Issa said. "Done right, these reforms can improve the customer experience through a more efficient Postal Service."

About one in three mail customers has door-to-door delivery, Issa said. The shift would include safe and secure cluster box delivery areas, he said, especially for elderly customers who receive checks and prescriptions through the mail.

About 30 million residential addresses receive delivery to boxes at the door or a mail slot. Another 87 million residential addresses receive curbside or cluster box delivery.

The cost differences are clear. Curbside delivery costs average $224 per year for each address, while cluster box delivery averages $160. Door-to-door delivery costs the agency about $350 per year, on average.

Issa's plan allows for people with physical hardships to get waivers allowing them to keep door delivery.

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