Citing a decrease in mail volume, the U.S. Postal Service will remove 81 mailboxes from Palo Alto neighborhood corners after the Christmas holiday, a postal service spokesman said.
The box removals, which will reduce the number of collection boxes from 193 to 112 throughout Palo Alto, were set for Monday, Dec. 7, but USPS will keep them in place until after the holidays for customers' convenience, postal service spokesman Augustine Ruiz said. Each box to be removed after the holidays now has a notice saying it will be taken out and the location of the nearest remaining box.
Residents in Barron Park and Old Palo Alto were the first to notice messages pasted on the boxes, which indicated that because of a severe decline in single-piece, first-class letter mail, the boxes would be removed. The paring down is happening across the country, Ruiz said.
"The daily threshold is 25 or more pieces per box. All of the boxes scheduled for removal have shown fewer than 25 pieces, and many with just a couple of pieces in them. The density checks were done in September to October 2015," he said.
Most people deposit their mail in the "snorkel" boxes outside the post office either on the way to work or after, he said. Those boxes are always full and are collected more frequently by mail staff, he added.
The postal service has had to shift its strategy since the advent of online sales. The postal service was, at its peak, at 213 billion pieces of mail nationally in 2006, Ruiz said.
"We have lost 26 percent, or 55 billion pieces, since then," he said. "The most visible culprit is the Internet, and of course the severe 2008 recession, where companies cut back on their mailings and migrated to online business transactions, especially in the business-to-business, first-class category.
"However, while the Internet has caused us to lose significant volume, we have seen a double-digit increase in packages. So letter-class mail has been replaced by parcel and package deliveries, all driven by the increase in online shopping," he added.
The parcels are larger and take up more cubic capacity, which requires an investment in new technology, such as automated package-processing systems and small-parcel sorting systems, in which the postal service has heavily invested in, Ruiz said.
"It is safe to say that the future trend will be in parcels because people will continue to shop online and they need a trusted courier to deliver it, and who better to choose than an agency that has been moving the mail for 240 years? So, until someone invents a way to email a sweater, we'll deliver it," he said.