Landrith: U.S. Postal Service standards keep declining

George Landrith

The U.S. Postal Service is a steady fixture in every American’s life. From the post office on Main Street to the postal worker who has delivered mail to our houses for 25 years, the U.S. Postal Service has been a dependable entity in our daily lives.

Recently, a bipartisan group of senators, including Gary Peters, D-Bloomfield Township, met with Postmaster General Megan Brennan to discuss a long list of Postal Service complaints. At the top of the list was lagging delivery times that are continuing to get worse. As part of the evaluation process, Peters and the group maintain that declining postal standards and the consolidation of mail processing facilities is negatively impacting rural communities across their states.

Now, we undoubtedly have different means for many types of information sharing through the Internet. While many may rely on email and other Internet-based communications platforms, most still use the mail to send birthday cards or pay the mortgage and myriad other purposes. Additionally, rural America still lags more than urban areas in Internet use, which only makes the Postal Service that much more important in many areas of the country.

The Postal Service seems to be increasing service and product offerings in metropolitan centers like San Francisco, Washington, D.C. and New York, while shutting down mail processing facilities and decreasing service in other areas.

In recent years the Postal Service has consolidated Michigan processing centers in Gaylord, Jackson and Saginaw, and the agency is also targeting the facilities in Iron Mountain, Kalamazoo and Lansing for the next round of closures. If each is consolidated, only four sectional center facilities will remain in the state.

Because of these closures, mail sometimes travels 90 miles out of the way before it reaches its intended recipient on the other side of town. Many elected officials, including the group that met with the postmaster general this month, have questioned the strategy to close the processing facilities in light of the resulting decline in service standards.

In truth, Postal Service standards have steadily deteriorated over the last three years. An example is the elimination of overnight delivery for local first class mail that would arrive the very next day. According to the Postal Service, first class mail, which is supposed to reach its recipient in 3-5 days, failed to meet this standard for more than one third of all mail delivered in the first seven weeks of 2015.

While service is languishing throughout most of the country, urban areas are seeing a bump in services from the Postal Service. Recently, a service called Metro Post was expanded to other cities even though it earned $1 for every $10 invested, a 90 percent financial loss. Add this to such other new ventures as grocery deliveries (their exclusive Amazon delivery deal) and a potential move into banking services, and it’s clear that the trend for the agency has been to cut back on standard mail service to move into other business ventures.

The Postal Service was created to provide letter mail delivery service to all Americans, no matter where they live, at a reasonable rate. It is questionable whether or not postal customers are truly getting the service they are funding. Considering the stamp price increases, it is difficult not to wonder how much of those increases fund money-losing ventures like Metro Post in San Francisco.

Mail delays should not be acceptable so that the Postal Service can deliver chocolates, flowers or teddy bears in San Francisco.

George Landrith is the president of Frontiers of Freedom, a think tank in Fairfax, Virginia.