PRC Blasts USPS Retail Closure Plan

December 30, 2011

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Postal Service plans to close a many as 3,600 retail facilities is based on questionable data, Postal Regulatory Commission (PRC) recently concluded.

In a Dec. 23 advisory opinion, the PRC challenged the methods with which the Postal Service developed its “Retail Access Optimization Initiative,” charging that the USPS lacked sufficient data for determining which closures would reduce costs the most and that it lacked sufficient data and analysis to make the best decisions.

The USPS plan does not "determine the facilities most likely to serve the greatest number, reduce the greatest costs, or enhance the potential for growth or stability in the system," PRC Chairman Ruth Goldway said in a statement accompanying the report.

The PRC also found the USPS selection process  failed to adequately consider whether an alternate post office was nearby. Goldway said that the USPS failed to give “careful consideration” to “each individual community's needs,” charging that the panel’s review of challenges to closings reveals “a pattern of inaccurate and overly optimistic economic savings calculations and of careless disregard of community concerns.” The USPS, she added, demonstrated “an ongoing institutional bias within the Postal Service that presumes closing small post offices automatically provides cost savings and network efficiencies.”

The PRC’s criticism of the post office closure plan echoes concerns expressed by the APWU, consumer groups, and other mail users in recent months. “Closing post offices and slashing service to the American people is not the answer to the Postal Service’s financial crisis,” said APWU President Cliff Guffey. “The USPS is well aware of the cause of its financial difficulties,” he added. “They cannot cut their way to fiscal health.”

The Postal Service unveiled its list of more than 3,600 facilities post offices, stations and branches — about 11 percent of its retail network — targeted for closure studies on July 26, 2011 and its goal was to make final determinations by the end of 2011.  Under pressure from legislators on Capitol Hill, however, the USPS announced a five-month moratorium on the closure of post offices and mail processing facilities. The delay until May 15, 2012, is intended to give Congress more time to adopt legislation that would address the USPS financial crisis without drastic cuts in service.

By law, the Postal Service must request an advisory opinion from the PRC when proposed changes would have a nationwide impact on service. Although the panel’s opinion is nonbinding, it supports the case that the APWU and others are making to Congress that slashing the postal network will hurt service and invite the demise of the nation’s mail system.


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