The days of reaching from the front door to the mailbox could be numbered if a new congressional plan to save the Postal Service goes ahead.
The proposal, approved by a House committee on Wednesday, would end door-to-door delivery by 2022. Instead, postal carriers would limit their deliveries to curbside – meaning boxes at the end of driveways — or to cluster boxes, a staple of many apartment complexes.
The plan, which passed on a straight party-line vote of the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee, is part of broader legislation sponsored by the committee's chairman, California Republican Darrell Issa. It aims to cut up to $4.5 billion a year from the budget of the Postal Service, which lost $16 billion last year.
Proponents still have to deliver the votes in the full House as well as the Democratic-controlled Senate if the plan, which would also eliminate Saturday delivery and remove no-layoff clauses from future union contracts, is to go ahead.
And it's not like changes to mail service have proved an easy sell in the past, despite the Postal Service's money woes. As much as lawmakers love to bash the service for perceived inefficiency, the idea of ending Saturday delivery was turned down in March. A proposal last year to close down rural post offices was also returned to sender.
Ahead of the vote on the latest measure, Issa said the proposal is a "balanced approach to saving the Postal Service means allowing USPS to adapt to America's changing use of mail."
The Republican says about one-in-three customers – about 30 million – currently have door-to-door delivery, which he says costs about $350 per customer each year, as opposed to $224 for curbside and $160 for cluster box delivery.
USPS spokeswoman Sue Brennan says the shift toward centralized delivery "would allow the Postal Service to deliver mail to more addresses in less time, doing so is not included in our five-year plan."
Democratic Sen. Thomas R. Carper of Delaware, chairman of the Senate committee that oversees the Postal Service, said in a statement that he plans to introduce a Senate bill soon. "While we differ in our approach in some areas, Chairman Issa and I are united in our commitment to restoring the Postal Service to solvency."
The AP writes that the change to curbside and cluster box delivery would codify an already existing trend. USPS, it says:
"... has been moving toward curbside and cluster box delivery in new residential developments since the 1970s. The Postal Service in April began deciding whether to provide such delivery for people moving into newly built homes rather than letting the developers decide."