TRPA idea: Home delivery for all
Getting mail delivered to Tahoe Basin homes is no simple task.
Of course, South Lake Tahoe and certain El Dorado County residents wouldn’t know about that – many have been getting home delivery for years.
But several thousand others incorporate regular trips to the post office into their daily lives.
Many have grown accustomed to the ritual and some even enjoy it. That’s good news because the road to establishing home delivery throughout the basin is a rocky one.
The U.S. Postal Service delivers mail to houses in South Lake Tahoe, most of the South Shore portions of El Dorado County and Incline Village. Residents elsewhere must drive to the post office to get their mail from an assigned post box.
According to the Tahoe Regional Planning Agency, all that driving creates unnecessary pollution that could be mostly eliminated by establishing home delivery throughout the basin.
“For many years, implementing home delivery has been one of the control measures in our regional transportation plan for reducing vehicle miles traveled,” said Bridget Cornell, transportation planner for TRPA. “Our hope is to make home mail delivery available to as many people as possible, as soon as possible.”
But that reasoning leaves 13-year South Shore resident Betsy Tapper cold. Although she lives in South Lake Tahoe and has the option of home delivery, she keeps a mail box at the post office and enjoys the social interaction involved in a trip to the post office.
“(Eliminating pollution) sounds like a whole lot of justification to me,” Tapper said. “When I think about the people I know who use the post office boxes, they would be driving and running errands anyway. Home delivery probably wouldn’t change that.”
Also, home delivery entails a certain amount of responsibility for the resident.
“I don’t want to bother maintaining the battle of the berm just to keep my mail box accessible,” Tapper said. “The post office is a lot more convenient.”
The United States Postal Service is required by law to offer some form of mail delivery, free of charge. That can either mean home delivery or postal boxes, but not both. Tapper, for example, has to pay an annual fee for her box because she lives in a home delivery area. But across the state line, at the new Zephyr Cove post office at Round Hill, the post office mail box is the only option for residents.
“It’s always been this way, ever since postal service came to the basin many, many years ago,” said Tony Cappel, post master at Zephyr Cove. “The postal service is in the process of updating their regional plan, but right now there is absolutely no home delivery at Zephyr Cove.”
Depending on input from TRPA, the postal service might begin trying to change that. The Zephyr Cove post office happens to be one of the few basin post offices designed with enough space for the home delivery carriers.
“Generally most of the post offices are not large enough to house the vehicles. We require a minimum of 140-square-feet per carrier,” said Becky Bernard, post office operations manager. “But if people wanted it, Zephyr Cove might be able to accommodate home delivery because it is definitely large enough.”
Home service would only require one delivery person per 500 families – not a difficult feat, according to Bernard.
The U.S. Postal Service is proposing new facilities to replace those not large enough to accommodate home delivery needs and will be working with TRPA on design and other construction concerns, according to Bernard.
“Home service would not be easy and would require cooperation from a lot of people,” she said. “But our regulations provide that if we have enough people wanting delivery we will do just that.”
After building larger facilities, Bernard estimates it would take another year to fully implement home delivery.
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