Thursday, December 29, 2011

Oversight panel says Postal Service used unreliable data to draw up post-office closure list

The Postal Regulatory Commission, which advises the U.S. Postal Service and Congress, said today that the service used questionable data to choose more than 3,600 post offices for possible closure. The PRC opinion is pretty dense, and the press release isn't much better, but Lisa Rein of The Washington Post sums it up nicely: "In many cases the selection process ignored whether an alternate post office was nearby and which closures would reduce costs the most and lacked sufficient data and analysis to make the best decisions."

“We certainly challenge their methodology,” Commission Chairman Ruth Goldway told the Post. “They had a simple screening process, but it did not optimize the choices. They don’t have really good data that tells them which post offices will continue to grow or be on a downhill path.” The commission said in its opinion that it could not "develop reliable cost-savings estimates because the Postal Service does not collect facility-specific revenue and cost data, or separate retail costs from other operational costs. The commission found that such data should be available for use in comprehensive facility closing plans."

Rein notes, "The opinion is not binding, but it carries weight with Congress, which has questioned whether so many closures are necessary. Lawmakers are worried about leaving too many constituents without mail service, especially in rural areas. Under pressure from Congress, the Postal Service earlier this month agreed to delay the proposed closures and consolidations until the spring in hopes that pending legislation to shore up the agency’s finances will pass."

The service said it was most likely to close rural post offices "that take in less than $27,000 in revenue each year and suburban and urban ones with less than $500,000," Rein reports. "But the oversight commission consulted economists and other experts who concluded that other factors should come into play: How many miles away is the nearest post office? Would closing deny service to large groups of customers, such as seniors, who would have trouble finding alternatives?" (Read more) The same concerns have been voiced at many public meetings held by USPS about possible closures of individual offices.


Get Kansas! said...

Many post offices were on the list that do bring in much more than $27,000. One of the inconsistencies.

Anonymous said...

Ok so let me get this straight - conservatives have been going ballistic about spending - the Post office complies with their wishes and starts cutting and now Congress (partially controlled by conservatives) are back pedaling? Do they want cuts or not? They can't have it both ways.