POStPlan: Map, Charts, & More

May 14, 2012

On May 9, the Postal Service released POStPlan, its new plan for small rural post offices.  The plan will impact 13,000 post offices.  Over the coming months, the Postal Service will begin holding community meetings to discuss the options: replace the post office with a "village post office" (a postal counter in a private business), close the post office and switch to rural delivery, or keep the post office open at reduced hours — two, four, or six hours per day, depending on the office's revenues.  Full-time careeer postmasters will be replaced by part-time workers at these part-time offices.  Details about the plan are here.

You can see the official USPS list here, and there's a map on Save the Post Office, here.  

A much better version of the map and list can be found on Google Fusion Tables: List and Map.  Google makes it possible to sort, filter, analyze, chart, and map the list in many ways.  There are several options and features, so here's a guide to help you get started.

POStPlan by the numbers

May 12, 2012

The Postal Service's POStPlan initiative announced on May 9, 2012, would reduce hours at 13,000 post offices from eight hours a day to six, four, and in some cases, two.  Here's how the list provided by the Postal Service breaks down.   (An overview of the plan is here.) 

The plan would reduce the total number of operating hours per day at these 13,000 offices from about 100,000 hours to 57,000 — a reduction of 43,000 hours or 43%.  Over the course of a year, hours of operation would be reduced by over 11 million hours (43,000 x 260 weekdays — the plan doesn't deal with Saturdays).

The country has 32,000 post offices.  Figuring they operate eight hours a day (not all do), five days a week, the total operating hours for the USPS retail network comes to about 66 million hours.  POStPlan would thus reduce that by 11 million hours, or 16%.  

The Postal Service brings in about $12 billion at retail windows (most of its $65 billion in revenue enters the system at processing plants and bulk mail entry units).  The post offices on the POStPlan list bring in a smaller portion of that $12 billion than their numbers might suggest (they're on the list because they're low revenue), but if the 16% decrease in total network operating hours translated into just a 2% decrease in revenues, the Postal Service would lose $240 million.  

Just to look at it a slightly different way:  Say the 13,000 post offices on the POStPlan list bring in $800 million in revenues (a rought estimate based on various sources), and let's say that when they're closed almost half the day, 25% of that revenue goes elsewhere.  That would come to $200 million in lost revenue.

In other words, figured either way, the revenue losses could be significant, and they could wipe out a large part of the estimated cost savings of $500 million. 

Ralph Nader Calls New Postal Service Plan a “Bait and Switch” Tactic, Not Good News for Rural Post Offices

May 11, 2012

[Press release]

Consumer advocate Ralph Nader said today, “The Postmaster General’s Post Office Structure Plan (“POSt Plan”) is a bait and switch tactic, and it is not good news for rural Post Offices or their customers.” 

The Postmaster General claims that his new strategy, released on Wednesday, is designed to benefit rural Americans and keep open the 3,652 postal facilities it was considering for closure. Though it is unclear how many of these offices are included in the “POSt Plan”, it seems that many of them have been incorporated in the new plan as well. The new direction that the Postmaster General proposed is to cut hours at nearly 13,000 Post Offices and offer early retirement incentives for more than 21,000 non-executive postmasters.

“As more details about the plan emerge, the picture grows increasingly dire for rural customers of the U.S. Postal Service,” Nader observed. “I expressed deep concern about the preliminary details of the Postmaster General’s on Wednesday. Unfortunately, those fears were confirmed as we have analyzed the details of the Postmaster General’s new strategy.”

Just when you thought it couldn't get any worse: The Postal Service has a new plan for the post office

May 10, 2012

After a year and a half spent threatening to close thousands of rural post offices, the Postal Service has suddenly changed course.  Instead of closing small post offices, the Postal Service has come up with a way to make them irrelevant.  

The Postal Service’s new plan — awkwardly named  "Post Office Structure Plan," or POStPlan — will reduce the hours of operation at 13,000 small post offices from eight hours a day to six, four, even two.  And instead of staffing the post office with a career postmaster, these offices will be run by a part-time worker with little or no experience.  It’s a deadly combination, and it will do more harm than good.

The headlines are all about the “good news” that thousands of post offices have been “spared" and given a "reprieve."  And the politicians seem happy to pat themselves on the back for their good work.  But the new plan demonstrates that the leaders of the Postal Service have not really had a change of heart.  They remain determined to dismantle the Postal Service — they’ve just adopted a new strategy.


The Postal Service gets nostalgic

A few months ago, when it presented its Request for an Advisory Opinion on the Network Rationalization plan to consolidate mail processing plants, the Postal Service stated that “the statutory scheme” governing its operations did not require it to preserve “a tangible link to an iconic past, or to perpetuate a nostalgic image of the agency.”  That was a pretty clear knock at those fighting to preserve the institution of the small town post office and postmaster.

Now, on the Postal Service website, there’s a nostalgic image of an iconic small town post office (the one at the top of this post).  It’s being used in the same cynical way the Postal Service presented the “Village Post Office” — a stripped down version of the contract postal unit — as the great new “concept” that would replace the real village post offices.

The Postmaster General would have us believe that the Postal Service has listened to its customers and that’s why they decided not to close post offices.  More likely, the prospect of postal reform legislation putting new restrictions on closing post offices led the Postal Service to seek an alternative. 

While many communities will be relieved to learn their post office isn’t closing, the new plan is in many ways much worse than the Retail Access Optimization Initiative (RAOI) — the plan to close 3,650 post offices — that was on the table until just a few days ago.  That plan could have shuttered three thousand post offices.  The new plan will half-shutter 13,000. 

As we’ve seen over the past few months, closing post offices runs into many barriers, and it would have probably taken years to close 15,000 post offices, as the Postmaster General says he plans to do.  Now, in one fell swoop, POStPlan will downsize 13,000 post offices in a way that’s almost as bad as closing them.

It’s not just reducing the hours that’s so wrong.  Over nine thousand postmasters will see their careers ruined, and the communities they serve will be the worse for it.  These are people who have devoted themselves to their work, their customers, and the enterprise of the Postal Service, often for decades.  They play a significant role in the life of their communities, and that's why in small towns across America, being the postmaster is an honor.  It’s truly tragic that the Postmaster General would do this to his postmasters.

If nothing else, this abrupt change in plans makes the Postal Service look ridiculous.  This is clearly an organization that has lost its way.  There’s no sense of a grand mission, no recognition that the infrastructure has an intrinsic value, and no respect for hundreds of thousands of employees and millions of average customers and small businesses. 

Once the hoopla about not closing post offices quiets down, people will start to realize that POStPlan is just another harebrained scheme, secretly cooked up in postal headquarters.  The plan sounds the death knell for the rural post office and for the Postal Service itself.  It comes not to save the post office but to bury it. 


What the plan will do

Over the coming weeks, POStPlan will come under scrutiny by members of Congress and the Postal Regulatory Commission, which will be weighing in with yet another Advisory Opinion.  The League of Postmasters provides an excellent review of the plan (the slides are very helpful), and a complete list of the impacted offices is available here (you can download an Excel version here).  

The POStPlan will make several significant changes to the retail network:

On Privatization

Good Reading on Postal Privatization

Also: Sarah Ryan's "Understanding Postal Privatization: Corporations, Unions, and the "Public Interest"

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