A couple of days ago the Postal Service gave the Postal Regulatory Commission a revised list of the 17,752 post offices impacted by POStPlan. The new list includes the Administrative Post Office (APO) that will manage each Remotely Managed Post Office (RMPO).
You can download the entire new list on the PRC website here. An abridged list (with some of the columns omitted) is available more readily online as a Fusion Table here, and as an Excel spreadsheet here. These lists show the APO for each RMPO, as well as the distance between them. [Google Fusion Tables (with the maps) was shut down on Dec. 3, 2019. A Carto map is here.]
The new list also shows that the new EAS Level under POStPlan has been changed for about three dozen post offices. You can see a list of these changes here.
APOs and Distances from RMPOs
There are about 4,500 post offices identified as APOs. It’s difficult to determine exactly how many because the list provided by the Postal Service last week includes only the post office’s name, not an address or identification number, and several post offices share the same name.
The Postal Service’s witness for POStPlan, Jeffrey Day, said in his testimony that approximately 4,561 post offices will be upgraded to Level 18, and of these approximately 3,907 will serve as APOs. That means there are probably about 600 post offices that will serve as APOs that have not appeared on a POStPlan list until now.
There are 12,690 RMPOs assigned to an APO. The average distance between an RMPO and an APO is 11 miles, and the median is 9.7 miles.
More than 2,841 RMPOs are more than 15 miles from the APO, and over 400 RMPOs are more than 25 miles from the APO.
The driving distances range from 0 to 57 miles, but as the zero indicates, there are problems with the distance numbers on the spreadsheet. Seven RMPOs are listed at 0.0 miles from the APO. For example, the post office in Colp, Illinois, appears as 0 miles from its APO in Herrin, but on Google maps, the distance is 3.4 miles.
As a random check of the new list indicates, there are many such discrepancies. For example, the post office in Monticello, New Mexico, is supposedly 10.9 miles from its APO in Truth or Consequences, but Google maps and the USPS locator both show it at 21 miles. The post office in Custer, Kentucky, is listed as 10.9 miles to its APO in Irvington, but Google maps says 13.1 miles and the USPS locator, 13.3.
Then there are a few howlers, like the post office in Ewell, Maryland, which is said to be 57 miles in driving distance from its APO in Crisfield. Maybe so, but Ewell is on Smith Island, and you’ll need to do your driving by boat.
The significance of the distance between a RMPO and an APO is not exactly clear. Generally speaking, the relationship is administrative, and long distances may be a problem primarily for postal workers who need to shuttle between the two offices. However, the distance may also become an issue for customers if the reduced hours at their post office force them to make a trip to the full-time APO.
Changes in levels
With respect to the new EAS levels, this week’s list is very similar to the one released in May. Both have 17,752 post offices. On the revised list, there 13,178 post offices being downgraded to part-time hours (some are already operating part-time), and 4,567 being upgraded to Level 18.
There appear to be about 35 changes: Twenty post offices originally slated to become level 4 will become level 6, and eight slated to become level 2 will also become level 6. Seven originally set to be downgraded to level 6 will instead be upgraded to level 18, most of them because they are identified as “isolated.”
Revised cost savings
As a result of these minor changes in the levels for 35 post offices, the Postal Service has also provided a new spreadsheet with the revised cost savings analysis. You can see the new calculations here; the original spreadsheet is here. The difference between them is relatively small. The revised calculations show a savings of $516,063,281 — about a million dollars less than on the original spreadsheet.
There’s no reason to focus very much on the new cost savings analysis, however. While the Postal Service has taken the time to produce a revised spreadsheet, it, like the earlier one, uses “average” salaries for postmasters that are really just the mid-point between the minimum and maximum salary for each EAS level. The Postal Service did not use the actual salaries of postmasters, which means it also did not include the fact that in over 3,000 post offices, the postmaster position is filled by a postmaster relief or other employee who earns far less than a postmaster. The problems in the cost-saving calculations are discussed in two earlier blog posts, here and here.
There’s another reason not to be concerned about the cost savings. As witness Day explained over and over again under cross-examination, the main goal of POStPlan is not to save money. Its aim is just to “realign” window hours and earned workload hours.
“In short,” says Mr. Day, “POStPlan sustains regular and effective service via Postal Service retail locations and fosters the ongoing expansion of alternative access while improving overall efficiency of postal operations” (testimony, p. 9).
Leave it to the Postal Service to cut the hours at 13,000 small rural post offices — in many cases to two hours a day — and then say it will maintain “regular and effective service.” And only the Postal Service could characterize forcing people to go elsewhere to do their postal business as “fostering” the expansion of alternative access.
Mr. Day also wanted to make sure that no one viewed the reduced hours as a “downgrade.” Although the Postal Service used the term many times in its written replies to interrogatories, when the APWU attorney used the word in her cross-examination of Mr. Day, he was quick to correct her. “For clarity sake, we don’t consider an adjustment of retail hours a downgrade…. The same services are being offered in that post office that always were being offered in that post office. It’s just a realignment of the retail hours.”
Tell that to the millions of people in rural America who will see their post office open just a few hours a day.