Letter carrier Diosdado Gabnat moves boxes of mail into his truck to begin delivery at a post office in Seattle.
Letter carrier Diosdado Gabnat moves boxes of mail into his truck to begin delivery at a post office in Seattle. (AP file photo)

Americans for generations have come to depend on door-to-door mail delivery. It's about as American as apple pie.

But with the U.S. Postal Service facing billions of dollars in annual losses, the delivery service could be virtually phased out by 2022 under a proposal a House panel was considering Wednesday.

Curbside delivery, which includes deliveries to mailboxes at the end of driveways, and cluster box delivery would replace letter carriers slipping mail into front-door boxes.

"I wouldn't like that at all," said Carolyn Cooper of York. "I want them to keep it like it is. You get to talk to the mailman, get go know him."

The curbside delivery proposal is part of broader legislation by Rep. Darrell Issa, R-Calif., chairman of the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee, designed to cut costs at the cash-strapped Postal Service by up to $4.5 billion a year. The Postal Service had a $16 billion loss last year.

The service's losses are largely due to a decline in mail volume and a congressional requirement that it make advance payments to cover expected health care costs for future retirees.

"A balanced approach to saving the Postal Service means allowing USPS to adapt to America's changing use of mail," Issa said. "Done right, these reforms can improve the customer experience through a more efficient Postal Service."

The U.S. Postal Service, an independent agency, gets no tax dollars for its day-to-day operations, but is subject to congressional control.

About one in three mail customers has to-their-door delivery, Issa said. The shift would include safe and secure delivery areas, Issa said, especially for elderly customers who receive Social Security checks and prescriptions through the mail.

The agency has been moving toward curbside and cluster box delivery in new residential developments since the 1970s. The Postal Service in April began deciding whether to provide curbside or cluster box delivery for people moving into newly built homes, rather than letting the developers decide.

Sue Brennan, a Postal Service spokeswoman, said, "While converting delivery away from the door to curb or centralized delivery would allow the Postal Service to deliver mail to more addresses in less time, doing so is not included in our five-year plan."

Brennan said the agency's five-year plan does call for shifting 20 percent of business address deliveries from door-to-door to curbside and cluster box delivery through 2016.

The Postal Service is pursuing a major restructuring throughout its retail, delivery and mail processing operations. Since 2006, it has reduced annual costs by about $15 billion, cut its workforce by 193,000 or 28 percent, and consolidated more than 200 mail-processing locations.

Like Cooper, Richard Spangler of York City isn't fond of the curbside delivery proposal for residences. However, Spangler said he is aware of the Postal Service's financial struggles and would go along with whatever delivery decision is made.

"If we can't afford (door-to-door), then we can't afford it," he said. "It would be less convenient to do things differently, but you have to live within your means."

Alex Garcia said he agreed with Spangler, his neighbor. Garcia, who lives in the city's Fireside area, said he wants to know whether residents would have to pay for mailboxes to be installed if the Postal Service decides their areas should have mailboxes at the end of their driveways.

However, Garcia added that he would support changes that would financially help the Postal Service. Curbside delivery also could make work easier for the mail carriers who now do a lot of walking for door-to-door delivery, he said.

Jody Chesla, also a Fireside area resident, said she will go along with a curbside delivery plan if that is what the Postal Service needs to do to overcome its financial issues.

"If that means us going a slight bit out of our way to get mail, that would be fine," she said. "I wouldn't affect me either way as long as the (Postal Service) doesn't go too far with the mail or in making changes."