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Cities With The Most Post Offices On The Chopping Block

The U.S. Postal Service is considering the closure of 3,653 retail offices — that’s one out of every ten in the country. Much of the conversation has focused on the effects this action will have on the rural mail system, but what really stands out is the large number of offices located in America’s decaying cities and towns, or neighborhoods.

USPS has not suggested to cut the delivery service from the current six days a week. That takes some of the leverage away from those who say that the Post Office will balance its books on the back of the American rural population. Everyone — city or country-dweller — will still get letters and parcels Monday through Saturday no matter how far a postman has to travel or what that trip costs.

The list of locations that may be closed suggests that it’s the urban areas that will actually bear the brunt of closures. In Michigan, for example, 13 of the 62 offices up for review are in the Detroit area. This includes the downtown post office in Flint, which may be the single hardest-hit city in America since the recession began.

“Today, more than 35 percent of the Postal Service’s retail revenue comes from expanded access locations such as grocery stores, drug stores, office supply stores, retail chains, self-service kiosks, ATMs and usps.com, open 24/7,” said Postmaster General Patrick Donahoe. “Our customer’s habits have made it clear that they no longer require a physical post office to conduct most of their postal business.”

The tragedy of the plans to close so many old cities’ post offices is that it is one more buttress taken away from the economies of these locations. The claims of mayors in Detroit and Cleveland that they can bring their cities back are unlikely to come true. These municipalities do not have the access to capital to build or rebuild infrastructure that would attract new companies. The federal government will not underwrite it. In most cases, the workforces in those cities are not trained to handle the jobs common to the parts of the U.S. economy that are growing, such as health services or technology jpbs. The loss of a post office hardly seems to matter unless it is on top of closed businesses, laid off workers and other economic troubles.

These will not be the last cuts the Post Office will have to make. It is already well on its way down the path the U.S. auto industry had to take. Its employment levels and infrastructure costs are much too large even with the suggested cuts. The system will still have 28,000 locations. The total savings from the closures of the offices on the list is forecast to be $200 million against an operation that loses almost $10 billion.

The residents of Detroit or Los Angeles do not need a post office nearly as much as they once did. Many have smartphones that allow them to send e-mails, transfer files, and buy goods and services that are sent to them by UPS and FedEx. Much of the infrastructure old cities lost was because it was unused and therefore of little value. It will not be long before the federal government, which funds the Post Office, sees that its entire system is antiquated and that a service of half the size, or less, will do.

To find which cities were up to lose the most offices, 24/7 Wall St. looked at the list of branches that face closure in the Post Office study. To illustrate the city’s current economy, we used unemployment data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics, as well as vacancy rates, population trends and population density data from the U.S. Census Bureau.

These are the ten cities with the most post offices on the chopping block.

 10. Houston
> Number Of Post Offices That May Close: 9
> Population Change (1960-2010): +123.8%
> Population Density: 3,501.4 (121st greatest)
> Unemployment: 8.2%
> Home Vacancy Rate: 11.08%

Houston was easily the fastest-growing large city in the country in the past half-century. Its population has more than doubled since 1960. Compared to most other major American cities, Houston’s economy is performing quite well: it’s vacancy rate is average, and it’s unemployment rate is slightly below average. For a city of its size, Houston has an incredibly geographically spread-out population, making traveling to post offices by foot often impractical. As a result of this decreased demand, nine offices are at risk of closure in the coming months. According to Houston Postal Service representative Dione Montegue, “The foot traffic is low.”

9. Baltimore – Tie For 8
> Number Of Post Offices That May Close: 10
> Population Change (1960-2010): -33.9%
> Population Density: 7,675.7 (30th greatest)
> Unemployment: 7.3%
> Home Vacancy Rate: 17.77%

Baltimore’s status as one of the biggest ports in the world has dissipated, and so has more than 33% of its population since 1960. Unemployment is relatively low in the city, but the vacancy rate of 17.77% is one of the highest in the country for a major city. As a result, the USPS may close as many as 10 branches in the city the coming months. Regarding the potential shuttering, “This is just a study. It may not happen,” Baltimore’s USPS representative Aneda Sauter said. “We’ll have to see what the outcome is.” She added that “service will not be impacted. You’re still going to get the same carrier delivering your mail.”

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8. Pittsburgh – Tie For 8
> Number Of Post Offices That May Close: 10
> Population Change (1960-2010): -49.4%
> Population Density: 5,518 (57th greatest)
> Unemployment: 6.9%
> Home Vacancy Rate: 14.09%

In 1960, Pittsburgh was the steel capital of the world and had the 8th largest population in the country. Since 1960, the steel industry has gone, and the population has decreased by nearly 50%. Pittsburgh is beginning to recover with heavy service-based economy. Unemployment is only 6.9%. However, the city still has long to go to hit its prior population density relative to its city infrastructure, as evidenced by a vacancy rate of more than 14%. The postal service may close as many as ten separate post offices in the city.

7. Los Angeles
> Number Of Post Offices That May Close: 12
> Population Change (1960-2010): +53.0%
> Population Density: 8,091.8 (27th greatest)
> Unemployment: 11.1%
> Home Vacancy Rate: 5.13%

Like Houston, Los Angeles is one of the few cities on this list with a growing population and a relatively low vacancy rate. Only 5.13% the city’s housing units are vacant. Los Angeles has a very high unemployment rate, however. And the population density is 27th, despite being the second largest city in the country.

6. Detroit
> Number Of Post Offices That May Close: 13
> Population Change (1960-2010): -57.3%
> Population Density: 5,142.5 (63rd greatest)
> Unemployment: 11.6%
> Home Vacancy Rate: 18.33%

There arguably isn’t a city in the U.S. that has had a greater fall from grace. Once a booming manufacturing city, particularly in the auto industry, Detroit has lost nearly 60% of its population in the last 50 years. It is the 18th largest city in the U.S., but it has the 63rd greatest population density. The city has an 11.6% unemployment rate and a staggering vacancy rate of more than 18%. As the population continues to falter and the economy worsens in the state, the postal service is looking to shutter branches. A total of 62 post offices could close in the state of Michigan, and 13 of them are within the Detroit city limits.
 5. Chicago – Tie For 3
> Number Of Post Offices That May Close: 14
> Population Change (1960-2010): -24.1%
> Population Density: 11,843.6 (10th greatest)
> Unemployment: 9.5%
> Home Vacancy Rate: 11.33%

While dealing with the same post-industrial woes that Detroit is, the difficulties in Chicago are nowhere near as bad. The city has had growth in some sectors, including manufacturing, and aerospace giant Boeing moved its headquarters to the region in 2001. Still, the city has a long way to go to recover from a nearly 25% population drain since 1960. The city has above-average unemployment and a vacancy rate of 11.33%, the latter of which has likely contributed to the review for possible closing of 14 post office branches. Chicago radio station WBBM reports that the postal service will replace many of the closed branches with “village post offices.” These would be located in existing businesses, and fulfill basic functions, including selling stamps.

4. Cleveland – Tie For 3
> Number Of Post Offices That May Close: 14
> Population Change (1960-2010): -54.8%
> Population Density: 5,107 (66th greatest)
> Unemployment: 9.5%
> Home Vacancy Rate: 17.54%

Six post offices were closed in Cleveland earlier this year and now up to 14 more may shut their doors. According to Victor Dubina, spokesperson for the postal service in Cleveland, quoted on Cleveland.com, the postal service “is going through tough times and realize tough decisions have to be made to keep it viable, and the cost of services affordable.” This is especially true for a city such as Cleveland where the population has been shrinking for years. Since 1960 the city has lost over half of its population. Once a thriving manufacturing center with a sizable auto industry, Cleveland has long been on the decline.

3. Philadelphia – Tie For 3
> Number Of Post Offices That May Close: 14
> Population Change (1960-2010): -23.8%
> Population Density: 11,379.6 (13th greatest)
> Unemployment: 8.4%
> Home Vacancy Rate: 12%

For a large northeastern city, Philadelphia is doing relatively well. Its continued strong health care and financial services sectors have kept it from experiencing the kind of post-industrial fallout that Detroit, Chicago, and Cleveland did. Nevertheless, it suffered a population decline of 23.8%, partially because of industrial decline and partially because it is an old northeastern city. Philadelphia has a vacancy rate of 12%. It also has the 13th greatest population density, despite being the 5th largest city. The postal service is considering closing 14 separate branches in the city. One of the offices being considered was formerly owned by Benjamin Franklin.

2. Washington D.C.
> Number Of Post Offices That May Close: 19
> Population Change (1960-2010): -21.2%
> Population Density Per Square Mile: 9,864 (20th greatest)
> Unemployment: 5.7%
> Home Vacancy Rate: 9.73%

Washington D.C., home of the Post Office Department’s headquarters, is where the decisions to close many of the post offices in the country will largely be made. It will also most likely have a number of closings within its own borders. Many of these offices are located within federal government buildings, such as the U.S. Capitol and the State Department. Washington D.C. has been doing fairly well economically. The city’s unemployment and vacancy rates are both relatively low. However, D.C. has had a shrinking population for a number of years.

1. New York
> Number Of Post Offices That May Close: 34
> Population Change (1960-2010): +5.1%
> Population Density Per Square Mile: 27,016.3 (the greatest density)
> Unemployment: 8.3%
> Home Vacancy Rate: 5.92%

New York is the only city east of the Mississippi on the list with actual population growth over the past 50 years. The city is doing remarkably well. It has a home vacancy rate of just 5.9%, and unemployment is below average at 8.3%. The city is both the most populous in the country and the most densely populated. In the case of the Big Apple, the likely reason for as many as 34 proposed closures is simply a lack of need, rather than a lack of profits. Nevertheless, many are upset at the plan, especially residents of the Bronx, where 17 of the 34 branches under review are located. According to the New York Post, Bronx President Ruben Diaz said of the closings: “The Bronx cannot afford such a considerable loss of both jobs and commercial activity.”

Douglas A. McIntyre and Michael Sauter

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