BACKGROUND & CONTEXT
The United States Postal Service (USPS) is so ubiquitous it is almost invisible. As one of the largest independent agencies of the Federal Government the utility and function of the USPS can’t be emphasized enough. Explicitly authorized by the US Constitution to facilitate interstate communication, commerce and connectivity - the United States Postal Service USPS has evolved structurally, functionally, and operationally at the frontier of global macroeconomic trends. As a $69.9 Billion organization it is at the epicenter of multi-trillion dollar logistics, supply chain and transportation sectors. Controlling almost 35,000 facilities with over 300,000 vehicles, it is the only entity that services every home in every neighborhood almost every day. In 2016 USPS facilities hosted over a billion unique visitors.
Despite that scale – USPS facilities are contracting and operations are radically modernizing in the face of evolving global commerce. Even more stark is the minimal coordination and linkage the postal system has with local government and communities. Equally surprising is how few communities or local governments seek to engage the postal service to align with local real estate, economic development or even public health initiatives.
Amidst rapid gentrification of urban areas; concerns of displacement of vulnerable populations; changing climate conditions and increasingly isolated rural areas combined with the accelerated evolution of the e-commerce; parcel and logistics sectors – the disconnect between postal services and local places leaves significant opportunity on the table. The United States Postal Service represents an unrivaled platform that could be leveraged to provide communities with what they need in the form of not just access to information, but even energy, food, social connection, and access to health services – all while not disrupting the fundamental charge of the postal service to “bind the nation together through the personal, educational, literary, and business correspondence of the people”.
Due to its incredibly connected, consistent, and reliable delivery service to all U.S. households, in addition to the large-scale reach and economic impact of facilities and delivery networks, the USPS offers multiple social benefits. Free check-ins on the elderly and delivery of medicine provide safety for the elderly, mail carriers act as a version of the neighborhood watch/response team in natural disasters, and recycling centers aid environmental efforts. Due to the variety of social benefits it provides, it is clear that the postal service has a strong significance in communities.
Using existing infrastructure to focus on initiatives designed to help people offers the opportunity to improve vulnerable communities while simultaneously generating traffic that will keep post offices operational. The postal service receives no tax dollars for operating expenses and relies on the sale of postage, products, and services to fund its operations. Implementing partnerships and exploring new opportunities helps the community further realize the benefits of the Postal Service in capacities other than the ones described above, creating new ways generate revenue and keep facilities operational.