Every organization looks for ways to stay solvent, including the U.S. Post Office. So the Postal Service recently came up with an idea: instead of letting everyone in our new neighborhoods keep a mailbox in front of their home, why not require the neighborhood’s mailboxes to be clustered together in one place, saving the post office time and money. Then residents could take responsibility for picking up their own mail. They’re calling them Cluster Mailbox Units, or CMUs.
Well, we can understand their motivation, but maybe they need to think it through a little more. For one thing, our experience here in Cranberry is that is what makes a community succeed is adding value for its residents, not taking it away. The same applies to agencies like the postal service. I don’t think it’s likely that the post office will achieve new success by slashing the value it currently offers – particularly when private services like UPS, FedEx, and DHL are eager to take over.
Nevertheless, they claim the postal service could realize significant savings through the use of CMUs. So even though nobody, except perhaps the manufacturers of mailbox clusters, really loves the idea, if they do decide to make that choice for Cranberry, there are better ways and worse ways of making it happen. Fortunately, we’ve had a great working relationship with our local Post Office leaders. And we hope that pattern of cooperation would form the backdrop to our working through this new initiative as well.
So, while we’re not opposed to the concept of CMUs in principle, we do have some serious concerns. For example:
- Who would own the CMUs?
- Who’s responsible for fixing them when they’re broken?
- Who sets their locations to assure safe access for residents picking up their mail?
- Who picks up the litter that collects around mailboxes, such as local free newspapers, telephone directories, mailbox hangers, and so on?
- How do postal service issues such as outgoing mail, certified mail, parcel delivery, fragile packages, prepaid shipping containers and do-not-bend items, get addressed?
In Cranberry, whenever developers approach the Township about creating new residential neighborhoods, we work closely with them in planning to make sure their neighborhoods remain vibrant, desirable and sustainable for years to come. Since mail delivery is an essential service for every resident, CMUs need to be integrated into neighborhood design the same way that sidewalks, pedestrian pockets, street lights, landscaping, curbing and other infrastructure do.
So we don’t want CMUs simply dropped into neighborhoods without first addressing such important issues as security, parking, and weather protection, as well as their ownership and maintenance questions. If those concerns are not addressed upfront, they are certain to become a constant source of irritation and conflict within our neighborhoods.
As it currently stands, this push for CMUs from the USPS national leadership is way out of step with our community’s vision. It would create traffic, parking and safety issues where none existed before. So instead, maybe those leaders could learn from Cranberry’s experience and find ways of increasing the value of their service to customers which go beyond simply shifting costs onto local governments and residents.
I'd love to hear your thoughts, too. Write me at email@example.com