When will our neighborhood get door-to-door USPS mail delivery?
April 14, 2006 4:09 PM   Subscribe

Why do some neighborhoods get USPS mail delivered to their door (or at least to their property) and other neighborhoods get USPS mail delivered to mailboxes on the street near the recipients' property but not on it?

Every house I've ever lived in had the mail delivered to the door, or a mailbox near the door. This last summer I moved to a smaller town, and while this neighborhood was maybe 20 years ago kind of "in the country", in my opinion it wouldn't be considered "in the country" any longer. The school district head quarters is a block away, there's a golf course a few blocks away, numerous houses and developments, ten blocks to a mini-mall, etc... Is there any chance that one day this neighborhood will get door-to-door mail service like I'm used to? What does it take to get the USPS to upgrade your neighborhood?

I'm not injured and I don't have a pressing need for this change, I'm just curious. My mailbox is across the street, and I currently feel safe crossing it to get the mail currently, but that will likely eventually change as the traffic picks up due to all the construction in the neighborhood. For what it's worth, I'm within the city limits of Corvallis Oregon.
posted by pwb503 to Law & Government (13 answers total)
It's an interesting question. I've seen a number of relatively new suburban developments (last decade) that don't do to-the-door mail delivery, instead relying on clustered boxes that server mulitple houses.
posted by Good Brain at 4:20 PM on April 14, 2006

To the best of my understanding, getting mail delivered actually to your door is something that only happens in places that are densely populated. In areas where the mail carrier has long routes where they travel by automobile and not on foot (and not the city way of travelling where you drive the mail truck, park it and deliver mail by hand on the street, get back in the truck, drive a few blocks, park it etc) this one side of the road delivery ensures that they can deliver all the mail on a long route without having to cross the street or drive up and down each street. In the town where my house is, the mail carrier's route is 90 miles long. There is no way he could do this if he were delivering mail to both sides of the street or stopping at every house.

So, in short, if you have a route where the carrier stays in his/her vehicle and it's a long route, chances for to-the-door mail delivery are unlikely. Places where the carrier has a shorter route, sometimes they will drive up the street one way and down it another and in these cases they can get mailboxes on both sides of the street, but they still won't be delivering to your door.

A better answer is "ask your mail carrier" or the person at the post office since they will know if there are any plans to do to-the-door delivery, but I only think of this as happenign places where the houses are close enough together (and the roads have sidewalks etc) that the mail carrier can walk from house to house and have that be efficient.
posted by jessamyn at 4:21 PM on April 14, 2006

I'm not advocating raising the price of stamps to cover this or anything, but doesn't this sound like an example of the USPS not doing their job or at least of not doing their job in a fair and equal method? I know it's all about the bottom line, but really my neighborhood isn't any less dense than any other neighboorhood I've ever lived in. I feel like it's more an example of "history" deciding this issue for us, rather than taking a look at the area and deciding how to deliver the mail to it.
posted by pwb503 at 4:33 PM on April 14, 2006

Population density may or may not be a factor in this (certainly when I've lived in urban areas the mail has always been delivered to my building), but I definitely have noticed a correlation between the age of a neighborhood and whether or not the mail is delivered to the door. In neighborhoods built within the past 20 years or so, it seems it's much more common to have mailbox trees, whereas in older neighborhoods I've always seen mail carriers either walking or driving door-to-door.
posted by Acetylene at 4:50 PM on April 14, 2006

This is why I'd suggest talking to the postmaster. How the area has grown, how your post office is classified, and what the routes of the mail carriers are like all factor in to how the mail gets delivered.

I'm sure there's a reason why mail delivery in your neighborhood is like it is, whether it's a good reason is another matter entirely. There really isn't any right to fair and equal mail service in the USPS (the price of identically-sized PO boxes fluctuates depending on the classification of the specific post office, for example, nothing at all fair about that) there is a right to basic minimum services which varies depending on all sorts of things. Where I live, I'm too close to the post office to even get mail delivery at my home so they give me a PO Box for free. Any mail addressed to my street/home address gets returned to sender. I used to have a fierce white hot anger burning in my heart for the post office, so I feel your pain.

Here are the classifications for post offices. Rural delivery is up to the individual office

From mailboxes to neighborhood collection boxes, our carriers from more than 38,000 Post Offices™ deliver mail across the country. Here are some of the delivery services used to bring the mail to your home, be it a city apartment or a country farm.

City Delivery may be established within the area to be served provided, among other criteria, the area has a population of at least 2,500 residents or 750 possible delivery points, and at least 50 percent of the building lots are improved with homes or businesses.

Rural Delivery is established through the determination of local postal managers. A rural route should serve an average of at least one residential or business delivery per mile. In addition, roads should be public and must be well-maintained and passable year round. Extensions of rural delivery service should also serve at least one family for each additional mile of travel, including retrace. The requirements for road conditions are the same as those for establishment of the route.

Curbside Delivery mail goes into customer boxes located at street edges.

Central Point Delivery is for folks who share one delivery point for several addresses. If you live in a newly developed neighborhood you might have a convenient Neighborhood Delivery and Collection Box Unit with your own compartment to receive your mail.

and here are some rural delivery regulations

Here are some general guidelines:

- Mailbox must be in carrier's line of travel.
- Subject to state laws, the mailbox must be placed on the right hand side of the road in the direction of travel of the carriers, in all cases where traffic conditions are dangerous for the carriers to drive to the left to reach the box, or where doing so would violate traffic laws and regulations.
- Carrier is scheduled to deliver mail within 30 minutes of the same time every day.
- Requests / petitions for extension of route must be given to the postmaster of the delivery unit.
- On a rural route, more than one family, but not more than five families may use the same mailbox. A written notice of agreement signed by those who use such a box is filed with the postmaster at the delivery unit.
- Any questions regarding hardship cases or to request door delivery must be referred to the delivery unit.
- An ordinary (unnumbered) parcel too large to fit in the mailbox will not be left unless the customer has filed a written request with the postmaster as a release for leaving the parcels.
- Rural Carriers are not required to go to the door with a postage due letter only to the mailbox and blow the horn. The customer must come out to the mailbox to pay and/or receive the letter.
posted by jessamyn at 4:51 PM on April 14, 2006

I'm sure that (as jessamyn said), part of it has to do with the presence of sidewalks and/or previously established curbside mailboxes. In my small city, my older neighborhood has sidewalks and hence door service, yet a nearby similarly-dense newer neighborhood was built without sidewalks and had mailboxes installed, so that's how their mail is delivered.

In 1978, the Postal Service declared that every new development must have curbside delivery or mailboxes at a central location.

If the U.S. Postal Service could, however, virtually every neighborhood nationwide would have curbside delivery, said Gary Sawtelle, spokesman for the Suncoast district. "It's a more efficient form of delivery for us." He said the service has not offered door delivery as an option in new communities since at least the mid-1990s.

As part of the reconstruction of New Orleans, neighborhoods that formerly had home delivery are now getting 'cluster boxes' installed... there were about 50 such stands in New Orleans before Katrina, mostly at apartment complexes and strip malls, said Alan J. Cousin, New Orleans postmaster. In an effort to end the trek for about 50,000 New Orleans residents who must drive to post offices to retrieve their mail, the U.S. Postal Service has set up about 60 cluster box units in neighborhoods throughout the city. Another 200 will be installed in the next 30 days, Cousin said. It's "plausible" that hundreds more will be installed along curbs in neighborhoods.

So don't bet on getting house delivery if you currently pick it up at the curb. It saves time and money for the Post Office to drive street routes instead of walk door-to-door.
posted by SenshiNeko at 4:51 PM on April 14, 2006

but doesn't this sound like an example of the USPS not doing their job or at least of not doing their job in a fair and equal method?

Probably not; consider what jessamyn said about dense population vs. sprawl. Oversimplifying, if you have 100 houses to hit and they're each a mile apart, there are significantly greater costs (fuel and equipment) and time (in/out of car, driving between stops) than a route with 100 houses, each within twenty seconds' walk from each other.

So even though your mail is not being delivered "to your door", it is likely costing the USPS the same, or a bit more, to deliver per person.
posted by davejay at 4:54 PM on April 14, 2006

I live in the suburbs in a fairly nice neighborhood. Parts of it have curbside individual mailboxes, other parts havfe communal boxes. I can't find any reason for it. My street has indiviual boxes, two streets down, communal.
posted by puke & cry at 5:49 PM on April 14, 2006

In my case it's because my dead end street is considered a "private road" even though there's about 20 houses on it. The road is a right-of-way through everybody's property. Technically the town doesn't have to plow it but they do anyway, 'cause they're all nice like that.

It's a pretty densely populated Boston 'burb, most of the houses in town get mail delivered to the door. There's no obvious difference between my street or any other street, it's just "private" on paper.

We actually like having the mailboxes at the end of the street. It's a nice excuse to walk and it's a good place to run into the neighbors. Builds a friendlier neighborhood.
posted by bondcliff at 6:29 PM on April 14, 2006

I spent time in Winchester Bay, OR a few years ago, and nobody had mailboxes. In fact, the residents had to go to the next town (Reedsport) to get their mail.

Up where my mom lives in Auburn, CA, they do a similar thing. The mailbox is at a central location down at the end of the street. I think that the homeowners actually voted for it for security reasons. They seem happy with it.
posted by drstein at 8:45 PM on April 14, 2006

When I bought a nice old house in Longmeadow, MA, I was told (as part of the sales pitch) that my house was grandfathered in to have mail delivered to the door. So, based on that, it would seem that if you had it, you can keep it. New developments will never get it.

It really made a difference in the cold winters there.
posted by qwip at 8:56 PM on April 14, 2006

In my experience with USPS carriers, never expect them to do more work than they believe is necessary.
posted by Atreides at 6:26 AM on April 15, 2006

what jessamyn and senshineko said.
posted by misanthropicsarah at 8:04 AM on April 17, 2006

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