Post office may cut Saturdays, raise rates

In this Saturday, Dec. 19, 2009 file photo, U. S. Post Office letter carrier Tim Bell delivers the mail during a snow storm in Havertown, Pa. The U.S. Postal Service is increasing the pressure for dropping Saturday home delivery as it seeks to fend off massive financial losses. (Jacqueline Larma, file)

March 2, 2010 12:15:45 PM PST
Neither snow nor rain nor heat nor gloom of night ... but what about Saturday delivery?

Growing financial losses are putting pressuring on the U.S. postal system, which may drop Saturday home delivery. Also expected- a hike in postage rates.

U.S. Postmaster General John Potter said the agency is projecting a $7 billion loss this year and as much as $238 billion over 10 years, according to Postmaster General John Potter.

"The projections going forward are not bright," Potter said Tuesday. But, he added, "all is not lost ? we can right this ship."

According to the post office, the problems stem from a sharp decline in the number of items mailed, in part due to the recession and the move to electronic filings and communications.

In 2009, the post office handled 177 billion items. In 2006, the number of those items was 213 billion. The volume is expected to shrink to 150 billion by 2020.

The Postal Service has previously proposed eliminating at home delivery six days a week, but got a cold reception in Congress, which would have to approve the change.

"In light of the serious financial challenges facing the Postal Service, postal management must be allowed to make the business decisions they need to stay competitive and viable in the years to come. As we have seen, it is not productive for Congress to act like a 535-member board of directors and constantly second-guess these necessary changes," said Sen. Tom Carper, D-Del., chairman of the Senate subcommittee with oversight authority over the Postal Service.

While Saturday delivery is in the proposal, post offices would not close, according to Potter.

Potter would not speculate on how much first-class stamps would cost. Right now they're 44-cents.

"We need to walk slowly and very, very careful," Potter said about raising prices.

Potter said the post office is also considering opening facilities in convenience stores and supermarkets, which would offer more foot traffic and longer hours. Plus, the plan includes using more part-time people.

In 2007, Chicago's mail system was called 'the worst' in the nation . In May 2008, Potter said- in a statement- it had improved: I am particularly pleased that service in Chicago has shown strong and steady progress over the last year. For quarter two, on-time delivery of overnight First-Class Mail is at 95 percent, up five points. Two-day performance is at the national average of 94 percent, up 13 points. And three-day mail has reached 90 percent, an improvement of 21 points.

Our entire Chicago service team, led by District Manager Gloria Tyson, has done an exceptional job. I know they will keep Chicago service strong as they work to align Chicago service performance and national figures in all three of these delivery categories.