In its Second Year Progress Report on the Delivering for America plan, the Postal Service explains that it’s “modernizing” the national network, “region by region.” That’s not a general remark about proceeding gradually, first one part of the country, then another, rather than doing the whole network all at once. It’s a specific reference to the new regional configuration of the processing-and-distribution network.
In the new network, the country is divided into about sixty regions, each with a Regional Processing and Distribution at its core. These RPDC facilities are the “backbone” of the new network, its largest and strategically most important facilities. All mail and packages that originate in the region will be aggregated at the RPDC for dispatch to other facilities, and the RPDC will also serve as the gateway for destinating letter mail, which will be processed at a Local Processing Center (LPC) before going out to delivery units in the region.
Each RPDC region consists of a territory defined by a set of 3-digit ZIP Code prefixes. The Postal Service has shared a presentation with stakeholders that has details and maps for the first eleven RPDCs launching over the coming months, as discussed in this previous post. Here are the USPS maps for Atlanta, GA, and Richmond, VA.
The Atlanta region (US-R-0001) has an RPDC in the new facility in Palmetto and four LPCs — in Atlanta, Duluth, Augusta, and Macon. The Richmond region (US-R-0002) has an RPDC in Sandston, VA, and two LPCs — one in Norfolk, VA, and a second in Rocky Mount, NC (not shown on the map). The color coding shows the areas covered by the LPC.
The 61 regions
According to USPS presentation materials, there are about 61 RPDC regions. The Postal Service has notified stakeholders of the locations of 57 RPDCs, as discussed in this post. But the Postal Service has not provided the 3-digit ZIP codes for any of the regions aside from those for the first eleven RPDCs.
In one USPS presentation several weeks ago, however, there was a map showing all the regions and their RPDCs. (The red Xs mark some of the first-wave RPDCs.) Using this map, one can identify the 3-digit ZIP codes that make up each region and then reproduce the map.
Here are the USPS map and the Google version. (Click on image to enlarge.) There’s an interactive version of the Google map here, which allows one to zoom in and also search by addresses.
Below is the table that was used to generate the Google map; it’s on Google Docs here. The first sheet lists all the RPDC regions along with the 3-digit ZIPs that comprise the region. See tab “RPDC Regions & 3-digit zips.” Note these lists are not official USPS lists, and they have some errors.
A second sheet shows all the 3-digit zip codes and their RPDC region, along with their SCF name. See tab “SCFs & RPDC Regions.” (An SCF is a Sectional Center Facility, a processing and distribution center that serves all the post offices within the SCF service area.)
A third sheet shows a list of the confirmed and unconfirmed RPDCs and LPCs. See tab “RPDCs & LPCs, Confirmed & ?.”
A few notes
Four of the 61 RPDCs have not yet been identified by the Postal Service as future RPDCs — Fargo, ND; Omaha, NE; Albuquerque, NM; and Montgomery, AL. (They do appear on both maps.) There will presumably be a few more LPCs for these four regions; a few possible P&DCs are included in the list of RPDCs and LPCs with questions marks.
The USPS map is hard to make out in some places, like Los Angeles and New York, so there may be some errors in identifying the corresponding ZIP codes.
The USPS map shows one RPDC in the area of Los Angeles, but a recent notification list shows two, one in Los Angeles and one in Bell Gardens, eight miles apart, each with its own region ID (US-R-0016 and US-$-0017). The Google map has both.
In a couple of cases, the color coding is confusing. It’s not clear if some regions have two RPDCs, or if there are two separate regions but in the same color. Grand Rapids (US-R-0045) and Green Bay (US-R-0046)are both in orange; Cleveland (US-R-0044) and Pittsburg (US-R-0030) are both in yellow. The Google map sticks with this color coding, but it’s likely that these are separate regions, each with its own RPDC.
The new postal geography
The new geography of RPDC regions and LPC service areas has significant implications for a wide range of matters that the Postal Service hasn’t addressed thus far.
One of the main changes will involve transportation. Reducing transportation costs is one of the goals of the network transformation. Instead of routing between over 200 SCFs, the primary long-distance routes will be between 61 RPDCs. This will obviously have a big impact on the private contractors (Highway Contract Routes) that provide transportation on these routes. And instead of intra-SCF and inter-SCF contract routes, we may soon be hearing about “intra-Regional” and “inter-Regional” routes.
These intra-SCF and inter-SCF categories are often used in reporting to the Postal Regulatory Commission about the cost allocations used to determine postal rates. If these categories are going to be supplanted by “intra-Regional” and “inter-Regional,” it will have all sorts of consequences on cost reporting.
The SCF system is also used to define service standards. For each 3-digit ZIP code, the Postal Service provides a map showing the service area that can expect two-day delivery, three-day, etc. (They’re available here.). It’s possible that this system will eventually be replaced by one that incorporates the new system of RPDC regions.
Another impact of the new regions will involve product offerings. The Postal Service has said that the new USPC Connect Regional product promises next-day delivery for “prepared packages dropped at the Regional facility closest to the final delivery.” This seems to mean that packages sent at an RPDC will be eligible for next-day delivery to addresses only within the same RPDC region. Packages that need to go from one RPDC region to another would presumably be eligible for USPS Connect National, which promises 2-to 5-day delivery for ground packages.
The regional organization of the new network is just beginning to come into focus. Mapping where the regions is only a start. The questions come next.
— Steve Hutkins
For more about the network transformation, visit the DFA/S&DC dashboard.