Earlier this week, the Postal Service provided the APWU with an updated list of the facilities that it’s planning to convert to Sorting & Delivery Centers and the post offices that will give up their carriers to these S&DCs.
The new list shows the plans for September 2023: Sixteen new S&DCs will take the routes from about sixty post offices.
Overall, if we include the conversions that took place in November and February (if they happened as planned) and those that are scheduled for June and September, there will soon be about 30 S&DCs in operation, absorbing a thousand routes from a hundred post offices.
We’ve put the list of the 30 S&DCs on Google Docs here. The list of the spoke post offices, along with additional information, is here. Note that our lists may contain errors identifying which post office the USPS list actually refers to, the number of routes, etc. A map is here.
In addition to showing the plan for September, the new list provided by the Postal Service includes some changes for the June conversions.
Three of the S&DCs scheduled to begin operating in June have been removed from the list that circulated last December — the P&DCs in Williamsport, PA, Denver, CO, and Owensboro, KY. (CORRECTION: Denver has not been identified as a S&DC.) Sixteen post offices that were also scheduled for June conversions have been removed from the December list (they’re marked on the table as “off list”). Three post offices have been added to the list of conversions for June — North Topeka, Gage Center, and Sherwood, all sending carriers to the Topeka S&DC.
Nine of the spoke offices are Remotely Managed Post Offices — among the 12,000 that had their hours cut to part-time under POStPlan back in 2012 — that have just one or two routes. Consolidating these routes to an S&DC will not have much impact, and it’s hard to see why the Postal Service would bother, unless it has other plans for these RMPOs, like a further reduction in their hours.
The post office in Fairfield, Connecticut — if the facility on Post Road is the one referred to on the USPS list — is a storefront retail operation with a couple of thousand square feet, and the carriers for its zip code work out of the Commerce post office in Fairfield. So it’s unclear why Fairfield would be on the list; perhaps “Fairfield” refers to the Commerce office. (Fairfield once had a historic New Deal post office, but it was sold in 2012, and the retail operation moved to the storefront.)
Some spoke names on the USPS list are followed by “(MO/STA).” It’s not clear what this means. It could indicate that when a city’s main post office (MO) is located in the same facility or city as the S&DC, it will be downgraded to a station (STA). For example, Rockford, Illinois, has a main post office and P&DC at the same location. Perhaps MO/STA indicates that the main office will become a station when it becomes a spoke of the Rockford S&DC; perhaps its postmaster will become the postmaster of the S&DC. The main office in Newburgh, NY, will become a spoke of the Mid Hudson S&DC, which is also in Newburgh. Perhaps it will become a station under the supervision of the postmaster at the Mid Hudson S&DC. But this is all just speculation.
In this phase of the implementation, the Postal Service is not including all the post offices that are within a 30-minute drive from the S&DC — the maximum reach. One notable exception is the Mid-Hudson S&DC, which is set to take on routes from 16 post offices — just about all that are within the reach. For the most part, though, the Postal Service is starting with just a few of the potential spoke offices. For example, the Topeka S&DC will take carriers from five post offices in June, but there are 18 that could become spokes.
If the 30 S&DCs announced so far were eventually to take over routes from all the delivery units within a 30-minute drive, at least 300 post offices would be left without carriers. A rough list, based on the model created last September, is here, and a map is here.
The average distance between the 100 post offices and the 30 S&DCs is about 13 miles and 19 minutes; if the averages are weighted by the number of routes, it’s about 11 miles and 17 minutes. It’s likely that in many cases the Postal Service is starting with spoke offices closest to the S&DCs, so these averages may increase as more spokes are incorporated into the S&DC. The drive times are usually under optimal conditions and could be several minutes longer under actual conditions.
As the new delivery network rolls out, those miles and minutes will add up to significant increases in transportation costs and work hours. At a full build out of 100,000 routes, the costs could reach $2 billion, as discussed in this previous post. The costs would need to be offset by eliminating jobs and closing post offices — a fact that the Postal Service has thus far not addressed.
The post offices on the list average about 7,500 square feet. Several are two or three times that size. When the carriers go, they will leave a lot of empty space behind, typically more than half the building, which will eventually lead to post offices being relocated to smaller spaces, closures, and property disposals. The Postal Service owns about 40 of the post offices on the list of 100 — six of them historic post offices from the New Deal era. They’re now at risk to be sold.
In its letter to the APWU with the new list, the Postal Service says that “the purpose of creating S&DCs is to reduce transportation and mail handling costs, as well as provide Postal customers with additional services. S&DCs will allow for easier standardization and management of operations while improving building and operating conditions for employees.”
The Postal Service has yet to provide any data showing how total costs will be reduced, it has not identified any new services customers will enjoy, it has not explained why managing employees and operations at a centralized location is easier than at post offices, it has developed the plan without input from customers and employees, and now it is implementing the plan without any government analysis or oversight.
The disruption to the postal infrastructure and workforce being caused by this ill-conceived transformation of the network is only beginning to be felt. The S&DC system will lead to more routes, more overtime, more carriers, more trucks, more fuel consumption, more vehicle accidents, more commuter expenses, more morale issues, more retention problems, more difficulties getting undelivered mail, more post office relocations, more suspensions over lease issues, more post office closures, and more reason to worry about the future of the Postal Service.
For more about the transformation of the delivery network, check out the S&DC Dashboard.
— Steve Hutkins