In the July 21 edition of the Santa Monica Daily Press (“Community speaks up for post office”) it seems that the closing of the Fifth Street post office is a foregone conclusion. I, like everyone I have spoken to, hope it is not.
It seems that the United States Postal Service has a knack for shooting itself in the foot in its attempts to cut costs and stem its negative cash flow. The primary profitable component of the Postal Service is first class mail, yet its cost-cutting measures have resulted in making this product segment less consumer friendly as in reducing the number of convenient neighborhood post office boxes.
Closing the Santa Monica Fifth Street post office is not a proper solution to the woes of the USPS. The predicament in which the Postal Service finds itself is caused by labor cost/pensions and subsidies in handling certain types of mail.
According to the Postal Service, closing the Fifth Street location would result in a net savings of approximately $2.6 million over a 10-year period, and the sale of the property could likely result in adding another $10 million sometime during that time frame. To retire its $25 billion deficit, the USPS would have to close 1,985,000 such facilities, each resulting in an average savings/income of $12.6 million, so one can easily see the folly of this course of action.
The real long-term solution is to reduce labor and resulting pension costs and reduce the subsidies for bound printed matter which can be mailed for as little as 1 cent per ounce.
Reducing the bound printed matter subsidy is a simple matter and will not have near the negative impact on the public or commerce as it would have a decade ago prior to widespread availability of the Internet.
Reducing labor and its resulting pension costs will require reducing the number of USPS employees. How can this be done without further impacting service? One way might be to require every multi-unit property to install a central mailbox to be located at the front of the property. This would, as in the case of my residence, eliminate the need for USPS delivery personnel to walk a total of 260 feet to deliver mail to the seven units in my building. In a densely populated city such as Santa Monica I suspect that such a modification could result in a 50 percent reduction in time to deliver a route, thereby eliminating the need for 50 percent of the delivery personnel. Over the same 10-year period referred to by the USPS, most of the excess personnel could be reduced through normal attrition.
The closing of the Fifth Street post office and relocation of its services to Seventh Street will not solve the problem and will only inconvenience first-class mail users, further exacerbating the problem.