Thousands of rural post offices to reduce hours under new USPS plan

Above: A Google map of New York State post offices that will have reduced hours under the new plan. Click on a red dot to get information about a post office's current hours and their planned reduced daily hours. Use the controls on the left to zoom in or out, or click and drag the map with your mouse. For a larger view, click here. Data from the United States Postal Service.

Last year, a U.S. Postal Service plan to shutter thousands of tiny post offices across the nation prompted outrage from rural customers, and brought down the wrath of Congressman Maurice Hinchey. The agency is now trying a different tactic for saving money: Reducing the hours at many rural post offices, cutting two, four, or even six hours out of the post office's regular day.

The USPS announced the new plan on Wednesday, May 9 in a press release. Postmaster General Patrick Donahoe said that cutting back on hours will allow most post offices on the dreaded closure list to stay open:

“Meeting the needs of postal customers is, and will always be, a top priority. We continue to balance that by better aligning service options with customer demand and reducing the cost to serve,” said Postmaster General and CEO Patrick R. Donahoe. “With that said, we’ve listened to our customers in rural America and we’ve heard them loud and clear – they want to keep their Post Office open. We believe today’s announcement will serve our customers’ needs and allow us to achieve real savings to help the Postal Service return to long-term financial stability.”

The new strategy would be implemented over a two-year, multi-phased approach and would not be completed until September 2014. Once implementation is completed, the Postal Service estimates savings of a half billion dollars annually.

Steve Hutkins, who blogs at Save The Post Office, is skeptical. Post offices that have their hours reduced, he writes in a sharp analysis of the latest USPS plan, will be caught in a Catch-22:

Reducing the hours at post offices and replacing experienced career postmasters with part-time workers with less experience will save some money, but it will naturally drive away business and encourage people to use alternatives.  Declining revenues will later be cited as a reason to close a post office, and the Postal Service will use the data on the shift to alternatives as more evidence that customers aren’t using post offices.

The USPS released a list of all post offices affected. Over 600 post offices in New York State are on the list. Many included in the present list were not on the USPS's list, released last year, of post offices previously slated for closure.