The U.S. Postal Service has been consolidating its mail-processing operations for several years, but it wasn't until I saw a recent postal official's presentation that I realized even more dramatic changes may be ahead.
The USPS's Network Rationalization Plan, opposed by some postal unions and not-in-my-district Congress members, would cut the number of processing centers nearly in half by 2015 -- from 461 this year to 232 in 2015. That's down from 673 in 2006 and 599 in 2009. (See also Has USPS Targeted the Wrong Plants for Closure?.)
As the maps below show, the impact would be especially dramatic in certain regions. Several states -- including Mississippi, Kansas, and Arizona -- would go from having six or more facilities to only one.
Note the plan's radical effect on states in and near the northern Rocky Mountains. Some of the centers targeted for closure are more than 300 miles from the nearest surviving facility, leaving some postal workers no way to continue working for the USPS without relocating.
|Northern Rockies: Currently|
|Northern Rockies: "After"|
It's not just sparsely populated areas that would lose most of their processing centers. Note the plan's impact on Ohio and southwestern Pennsylvania. And West Virginia, which had 11 centers barely two years ago, would be left with only Charleston.
|Ohio Valley: "After"|
|Ohio Valley: Currently|
Declining mail volume, increased automation, and revised service standards have meant the Postal Services needs fewer locations that can sort mail. The use of Flats Sequencing System (FSS) machines has tended to cause even more consolidation of processing into huge distribution centers, some of which have 2,000 employees (versus as few as 50 in the kinds of small centers that are typically targeted for closure).