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Politics & Legal > Cluster Mailboxes

Cluster Mailboxes

In today's Las Vegas Sun there is an article about how the post office wants to save money by using cluster mailboxes like we have in Las Vegas instead of door-to-door mail delivery. Our mail box is just a few feet down the street, and it's not a problem to stroll down there for our letters. I didn't realize this is a rare thing in the United States.

I think this is a good idea, and the post office also should eliminate Saturday mail delivery - both would save a lot of money. What is standing in the way is the postal carriers union. Now, you know I am fairly liberal, but I am tired of public employee unions making us pay and pay and pay too much for salaries and benefits. Every day we hear about yet another cut in government services to those of us who pay taxes, and one reason is the obligations to the government employees in current and future benefits.

"Time is running out to save the U.S. Postal Service from insolvency. Unless Congress can come up with a plan in the next three weeks, the postmaster general will likely begin shutting rural stations and slashing delivery, jeopardizing the future of carriers and the letters they deliver.

In an effort to avoid that scenario, the Senate is considering a bill this week to reform the agency’s finances and change the way the country receives its mail. If all goes according to plan, it would push the nation toward a model that’s been used in Southern Nevada for years — the community mailbox.

“Nevada has a very high efficiency,” postal service spokesman David Rupert said. “The way we deliver mail in Las Vegas — the rest of the country could look much like that.”

The history of mail in Nevada dates back to the Pony Express, but modern postal service has been shaped by rampant growth of the past 20 to 30 years in Las Vegas.

“There was a time when we had a new delivery route every week, at the height of it,” Rupert said. “And the only way to manage that kind of growth was to manage our deliveries” using community mailboxes.

“In the older suburban communities, you find more old-fashioned mailboxes,” said Michael Green, historian and professor at the College of Southern Nevada. “But it’s more efficient to have one mailbox in the newer developments.”

The postal service officially calls them Neighborhood Delivery Collection Box Units, the freestanding groups of aluminum lockboxes found on most suburban streets.

That common feature in Southern Nevada neighborhoods is an anomaly nationwide, however, where mail carriers walk their routes making door-to-door deliveries.

Consider a comparison between metropolitan Las Vegas and metropolitan Milwaukee, a city of comparable size in terms of mail deliveries. Of Las Vegas’ approximately 600,000 addresses, 443,000 are served by community mailboxes. Just 27,000 of Milwaukee’s approximately 660,000 delivery addresses are centralized boxes.

The bill being debated in the Senate would make more cities like Las Vegas. By the end of fiscal 2015, the bill gives the postmaster general the authority to convert almost all door deliveries to either curbside boxes or centralized neighborhood units — changes they believe will save money by allowing mail carriers to make more deliveries without having to exit their vehicles.

In Las Vegas, there are 886 mail routes. In Milwaukee, there are almost 1,200, because carriers can’t deliver to as many addresses. (Milwaukee is smaller in area than Las Vegas.)

Fewer routes means fewer mail carriers, and fewer mail carriers means less cost to the postal service: According to a 2011 Inspector General’s report, the changeover could save $4.5 billion to $9.6 billion a year.

But that’s also why the National Association of Letter Carriers and several lawmakers from eastern states — argue the change would cost the postal service too many jobs.

“Doing away with the delivery aspect would hurt us no matter what kind of mail delivery that you had,” said John Beaumont, a union president in California, the region of the association with jurisdiction over Nevada.

“It’s possible it would impact us a little less because we wouldn’t be consolidating as many routes, but it would still affect us,” said Glenn Norton, president of the union’s Branch 2502, which represents 1,500 letter carriers in Las Vegas, North Las Vegas, Henderson and Boulder City. “This is one of the last middle-class jobs in the United States, and we’re trying to save it for future generations.”

The end of door-to-door deliveries isn’t the only change in the Senate bill that would jeopardize postal service jobs. So would the elimination of six-days-a-week delivery.

Although the original bill puts a two-year moratorium on eliminating Saturday delivery, it doesn’t take it off the table. After two years, the postmaster general would have the authority to eliminate Saturday delivery if he thought it would help the postal service become profitable by fiscal 2015.

“That’s the beginning of the end to me,” Norton said. “When you’re trying to make a business survive, you don’t cut service.”

But if the postal service is going to avoid cutting service, it’s got to strike a political deal on the part of its finances related to pensions and health plans.

In 2006 — right before the recession, when postal deliveries were at their all-time high — Congress passed a law making it incumbent on the postal service to pay the pension funds of future retirees, projected for the next 75 years.

That fund is now overfunded. Even if one considers the retirees’ pension plans in conjunction with retiree health plans, funding is at 91 percent of their projected need — a cushion that’s almost three times the level for future veterans or any other class of federal government employee.

It’s money that postal workers say could offset up to $5.5 billion of their debt a year, but it would take an act of Congress to make the change."

posted on Apr 22, 2012 1:30 PM ()


When my subdivision was built 42 years ago, we were the first houses to get our mail boxes on posts at the end of the driveways instead of a box on the house. The mail carrier drives from box to box instead of walking from house to house the old way. This is supposed to save money and time. I see the cluster boxes in areas with townhouses and manor houses, not single family houses.
comment by boots586 on Apr 24, 2012 3:23 PM ()
Newer single-family subdivisions in Colorado also have this arrangement, and I always thought I wouldn't like it - kind of like old money looking down its nose at nouveau riche, but now that I have it in Nevada, it's no big deal; I've got bigger fish to fry. I'm sure if they start retrofitting these into older neighborhoods in traditional eastern cities people will fuss.
reply by troutbend on Apr 24, 2012 6:16 PM ()
I think this is a great idea. That said Royal Mail are away to put the price of our stamps up to a rediculous level at the end of the month!
comment by jensgems on Apr 24, 2012 1:54 AM ()
Our stamps go up every couple of years, but now they sell 'forever' stamps that will always be good, no matter what the postage increase. Some people have 'invested' in hundreds of them as a hedge against inflation.
reply by troutbend on Apr 24, 2012 6:10 PM ()
I think it's a great idea. It would get me out of the house once a day.
comment by nittineedles on Apr 23, 2012 12:55 PM ()
Our mailbox here in Colorado is five miles away (the post office, actually) so definitely a scenic outing.
reply by traveltales on Apr 23, 2012 9:25 PM ()
My mail has a secure delivery to the mail slot in my garage, which I love if
we are on a trip. However, I am willing to go to cluster boxes if they are
large enough to hold two weeks mail and if there is also a mailbox for mailing letters, which is only available at our post office at present.
comment by elderjane on Apr 22, 2012 3:00 PM ()
They have a place for your outgoing mail (you can see it in the upper left on the photo). We don't leave mail out there overnight if we can help it, and when we are going to be gone we either put our mail on hold so they don't deliver it until we get back, or forward it here when it's going to be several months.
reply by kitchentales on Apr 22, 2012 3:13 PM ()
The USPS won't be around much longer and it ALL can't be blamed on the postal workers!
comment by greatmartin on Apr 22, 2012 2:44 PM ()
I disagree
reply by greatmartin on Apr 22, 2012 6:38 PM ()
Not ALL of it, but a good-sized part of it.
reply by kitchentales on Apr 22, 2012 3:13 PM ()
My mailbox stands (until a plow hits it) at the end of the driveway. I believe the carrier is some sort of "sub-contractor". I know the carriers use their own vehicles. I could live without Saturday delivery, but I really don't want to lose my mailbox!
comment by jjoohhnn on Apr 22, 2012 1:54 PM ()
One winter here in Colorado a car skidding on the snowy road hit our mailbox and knocked it into the front yard. Until we got it fixed, the mail lady waded out to it and put the mail inside while it was still lying on the ground. I think they would target urban house-to-house delivery before they would start on rural areas like yours, but what do I know?
reply by kitchentales on Apr 22, 2012 3:16 PM ()

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