Sunday, February 5, 2012

A Second Look: From the USPS Closure Files

Save the Post Office ran an article yesterday regarding a document issued by USPS in response to a PRC inquiry that confirms what post offices were either discontinued or suspended last year. STPO has conducted an interpretation of the data, including the numbers involved. Here I just seek to establish what information you can take the bank and what just doesn't quite add up.

While I think it's in everybody's interest to know exactly what's going on with postal closures by means of data transparency, I'm also particularly interested in this information as a volunteer who helps to maintain the state-by-state Post Office Directory for the Post Mark Collectors Club -- the most accurate listings of post offices, classified units and CPUs you can get these days. I'm currently helping to revise the New Jersey listing.

The document in question is located here.

Here are my thoughts on the list:
Sheet 1, a list of offices that were discontinued last year, appears accurate.

I was too late to visit the Pennsburg, PA post office, a branch of Red Hill; here's a photograph of the former location less than a month after it closed:

The former signage is still apparent if you look closely.

Sheet 2 states what post offices were under suspension as of 1/1/12, and the results are interesting. While in many cases the information with which I'm familiar is is correct (including closure dates), I'll say take this one with a grain of salt. For example, Wilkinsburg Finance in Pittsburgh is definitely still open (as I visited it in November), so it can't have been suspended to the present day since 5/28/10. Similarly, Philadelphia's University City Station is the closest post office to my university's campus and I visit it frequently, so how it's been under suspension since 1/12/06 is beyond me.

Pittsburgh, PA: Wilkinsburg Branch post office; November 2011

Incidentally, what's with all the botched values in the top few lines of the spreadsheet is beyond me. If someone were to have the time, I'm sure it's possible to somehow associate the office name with its appropriate state and ZIP code.

Sheet 3: a list of facilities supended since Jan. 1, 2011. The first thing you might notice is that the North Palm Springs, CA is to be suspended as of 3/2/12. I was shocked to see Milltown, NJ on the list, since it's a sizable town and not adjacent to any other offices. Lo and behold, a Facebook fan told me that the office has been operating as a boxes-only mobile unit since the building was closed due to flooding, so I suspect these listings are accurate. (Similarly, I discovered a note about the suspension of the Whippany, NJ post office on the official website for Hanover Township. They have been told it's temporary.) Shickshinny, PA, an an office suspended last year due to flooding, is listed; it reopened very recently.

Some of these dates are inconsistent. For instance, in Sheet 2 we learned (line 124) that the Greystone Park post office of Morris Plains, NJ was suspended 3/27/07; yet on sheet 3 it's listed as having been suspended on 1/31/12.

The Milltown, NJ post office has been suspended as of 8/28/11. This photo was taken in February.

I've written about the suspensions of a couple of the offices listed: Elmhurst, PA; Johnsonburg, NJ; Mahanoy Plane, PA. I know all three listed dates to be accurate.

Sheet 4: Offices removed from RAOI, appears accurate. It's an updated version of the response to my FOIA received a couple of months back, and all appears consistent.

A new addition to the list is Providence, RI's Annex Station, which I documented not long ago in this entry. Closure would have made positively no sense as it's the only location downtown. Newark, NJ's Midtown Station, which I wrote about in this post back in October, has been saved. That study made no sense to me as the office had just absorbed the business of two recently discontinued stations, and so even the basic revenue analysis could not be accurate. Here's another one recently removed:

Cleveland, OH: Tower City Station

This was a friendly location that I visited back in 2009, and was not a ghost town by any means.

What I will note is interesting is that some Districts appear to be far ahead of others in the analysis of their respective RAOI offices. You can judge the extent of that prospect for yourself.

Sheet 5: Final Determinations issued since the start of 2011. This, too, need to be taken with a bit of a grain of salt. My friend Kelvin notes that the Final Determination issued for Gilbertville, MA was the determination that it would become a branch office at the beginning of this year. It's worth noting that while "only one" FD was issued in NJ last year, many other stations and branches were formally discontinued. As far as dates: they are accurate in some cases, but strike me as being way off in others. In many cases the dates are 3 to 4 months ahead of the actual discontinuance of the office.

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