A century ago, information was a physical commodity, and the U.S. Postal Service delivered it, providing a connection between individuals and the larger world.
Over the years, though, homes acquired telephones, radios, television sets, computers and Internet service all of them creating links that were faster, more convenient, more efficient, more satisfying. Private companies often providing better service have grabbed a big piece of the package-delivery market. The postal service is burdened with an unaffordable retirement obligation and an unsustainable business plan. Its in trouble.
Still, no one wants to give up their local post office. They enjoy their daily trip to the mailbox, whether its on the front of the house, out by the end of the driveway, or at the post office. They appreciate the convenience of the services provided locally. They like the social scene at the post office.
Who is going to pay for all that? Should the postal service operate totally as for-profit business, closing unprofitable locations and raising rates? Should the government subsidize it with tax dollars?
The truth is that most postal patrons (who also are taxpayers) prefer some combination of those two options. They want the postal service to act like they want the government to act. In other words, they want it to provide essential services that the private sector cant provide, in the most economical way possible.
Theyre willing to pay more for some services. They understand the logic of closing some post offices.
Local residents also want USPS decision-makers to acknowledge the realities of rural life. For example, when Rico postal customers received a letter suggesting they could drive to Dolores for mail services (and then misstating the distance), astute Ricoites suggested that someone from Washington make a winter trip on Colorado 145.
Rico children attend middle school and high school in either Dolores or Telluride, traveling along that same highway, but that fact does not counter the idea that an agency created to provide timely and convenient mail services is not doing that by closing a post office thats nearly 30 miles over a mountain pass from the nearest one (Telluride).
The postal service has removed Rico, Lewis and Pleasant View post offices from the endangered-species list, at least for now (although expect additional rounds of cuts before the budget is balanced). Yellow Jacket will be difficult to save; Egnar also remains under discontinuance feasibility study. Now Mesa Verdes post office is on the list.
Expecting a national park to have its own post office is not illogical, although the number of employees who make the trip up and down the mesa every shift suggests that the inconvenience of closing the parks post office would hardly cripple park operations. Yet, once more the question arises: Has anyone from Washington driven that road?
Surely someone could devise a statistical formula that takes into account revenue and expense, the number and types of customers, road miles, the average annual number of days of really bad weather, and other real-life factors that ought to come into play. Had that analysis been done, some now-pardoned offices would never have been considered for closure.
Congratulations to Rico for standing firm. Meanwhile, a suggestion to the USPS: Get serious about competing, because threatening to close remote rural post offices drives customers to UPS, FedEx and online bill-paying.