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Post Offices on the Line as More People go Online - By Susanna Pak

Posted on August 15, 2011

“Post offices on the line as more people go online”
By Susanna Pak

Link to possible Illinois post office closures:

The U.S. Postal Service is proposing to cut 120,000 jobs by 2015 in addition to cutting employees’ federal health and retirement plans, according to msnbc.com. Here’s the link: http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/44120198



The post office on Paulina Street in Rogers Park is not one of the 11 Chicago branches the U.S. Postal Service is considering closing.

Rogers Park resident Bernard Thompson takes up to 45 minutes to get to his neighborhood post office on Paulina Street in Rogers Park.


It takes 66-year-old Bernard Thompson between a half-hour and 45 minutes to propel himself to his neighborhood post office on Paulina Street in Rogers Park.
“I get out as much as I can,” said Thompson, who uses a wheelchair. “Even though it takes me a long time… I get out.”

The 15-year resident of Rogers Park used to have his mail delivered to his home on North Ashland Avenue, but not long after he moved to the neighborhood, he opened a P.O. Box.
“Dope dealers and dope addicts would come in there and steal your check out between the first and the third of every month,” Thompson said. “So they did that about three times, and me and my wife got tired of it so we opened a P.O. Box.”

Fortunately for Thompson, neither of the two Rogers Park post offices, on Paulina Street and Devon Avenue, is closing. However, the U.S. Postal Service recently announced it is considering closing 3,653 branches around the nation, 11 of which are in Chicago.

“When they shut down, it makes it inconvenient for people like me in the wheelchair and people that’s disabled,” Thompson said.
Thompson is part of a shrinking group of people who regularly use the post office. According to the U.S. Government Accountability Office website, mail volumes have been decreasing as more customers turn to the Internet.

The USPS Chicago District spokesman Mark Reynolds said even with more people using email, post offices need to be around, for two reasons: Not everybody is online, especially senior citizens, and people like getting hard copies in the mail.

Ella Houston, who works near the Paulina Street post office, stops by the office twice a week. “I can trust the post office more so than I can trust the computer,” she said. “It’s too much hacking and stuff. I don’t think the computer’s that safe for personal information.”

But more people are going online because email is fast and free. As of last year, nearly 80 percent of people in Illinois are Internet users, according to the Internet World Stats website.
The GAO, an independent congressional watchdog agency, reports the USPS lost nearly $330 million by March and is expected to lose a total of $6.4 billion for fiscal year 2011.
It also reports the number of pieces of First-Class Mail, the USPS’ most profitable mail, has declined by about a fourth over the past decade. That amounts to about 25 billion fewer pieces of delivered mail.

Reynolds said the continuing economic downturn is part of the reason for the loss in revenue. He said the USPS is taking steps to reduce costs by consolidating buildings and delivery routes. It is also looking into setting up “village post offices,” which are post offices located in supermarkets or other businesses.

“Ultimately, though, we’re going to need legislative answer from Congress to really address our longterm financial situation,” Reynolds said.

As for Thompson, he said he will keep using his local post office until his bimonthly checks start going directly into his bank account. He said he understands that everybody, including the USPS, is struggling in these times.

“Everybody got to give a little bit in order for this economy to kind of get back on its feet again. Just have to roll with the punches,” Thompson said. “You just have to roll with the punches.”


Susanna Pak is a graduate student at Northwestern University’s Medill School of Journalism. Susanna previously worked as an associate producer at KHON2 in Hawaii, interned at NBC 5 Chicago and reported for several publications. She enjoys sharing stories on air and online. Please email her at .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address) with questions, comments or story ideas.

Photos: Susanna Pak/Medill

 

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