Postal Service cancels rural closings

U.S. Postal Service letter carrier Juan Padilla arranges mail in his truck while on his delivery route in San Francisco, Calif. Bowing to pressure from unhappy customers and members of Congress, the U.S. Postal service will not close some 3,600 rural post offices.

Kai Ryssdal: There was this today from the U.S. Postal Service. All those threatened post office closings, all 3,700 of 'em?

Yeah, never mind. Instead, nearly five times as many post offices with low traffic will shorten their hours. The postmaster general says he's responding to objections from mailers in rural communities. But there was also pressure from a much smaller group of people in one particular city, where Marketplace's John Dimsdale happens to be.


John Dimsdale: Postmaster General Patrick Donohoe and other post office mangers spent the last year meeting the people who use the 3,700 rural post offices that he proposed to shut down to save money. 

Patrick Donohoe: The customers came out and said please keep our post office open. We can understand if you have to change the hours that somebody’s at the counter but can you come up with some suggestions so we don’t have to close our post office?

To keep them open, the Postal Service will instead cut the window hours at 13,000 post offices. Some will open only two hours a day. Responding to customers may be important, but Don Soifer at the Lexington Institute says Donohoe is also feeling political pressure from Congress.

Don Soifer: Left, right and center, it’s not a matter of any particular political party. There’s very strong interest on Capitol Hill in preserving post offices in their districts and states and also preserving postal jobs in their districts and states.  And the postal service management is largely responding to that.

Cutting service hours saves $500 million. But that’s nowhere near the $200 billion in projected post office losses over the next decade. The Senate has passed a reform bill that allows for more layoffs. But it includes a two-year moratorium on post office closings and it preserves expensive Saturday mail deliveries.

Cornell economist Rick Geddes says while Congress considers only piecemeal changes, a financial train wreck is looming.

Rick Geddes: I’m afraid we’re delaying that reform to such a point where the postal service is going to collapse.

The postmaster general says the changeover to shorter service hours will take more than a year to complete.

In Washington, I'm John Dimsdale for Marketplace.

About the author

As head of Marketplace’s Washington, D.C. bureau, John Dimsdale provides insightful commentary on the intersection of government and money for the entire Marketplace portfolio.

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