People in new suburban developments or in rural areas are unlikely to feel sympathy for all the city dwellers who will have to trudge to a community mailbox to pick up their parcels and Christmas cards, now that Canada Post says it will phase out all door-to-door delivery within the next five years.
However, inconveniencing city slickers will not be the only headache when Canada Post switches all households to super mailboxes. The Crown corporation has released few details about how it will make the conversion, saying only that the specifics still have to be worked out. Here are three hurdles it can expect:
The most obvious challenge is that in the cities, there will be more households squeezed into less space. In the Trinity-Spadina downtown district in Toronto, for example, there is a population density of 10 thousand people per square kilometre.
A spokesman for Canada Post told The Globe and Mail that community mailboxes could be in an apartment-block foyer, or would be in an outdoors public property, such as a park or a sidewalk.
How that will be done is unclear.
Toronto City Councillor Janet Davis said her city’s sidewalks are already cluttered with bus shelters, utility boxes, bicycle stands and newspaper boxes. “I don’t how we’re going to accommodate anything else.”
In Montreal, large parts of the city are packed with row houses and duplex and triplex apartments, meaning a lot of people are shoehorned into each city block, with no apartment building lobby that could be used as a mailbox site. “Where are they going to put the damn boxes?,” Mayor Denis Coderre said.
“With the population density we have in the old neighbourhoods in Montreal, it’s going to take a lot of mailboxes that obviously will have to be in a public space,” Montreal city councillor Richard Bergeron told reporters.
“What is public space? The sidewalks. We’ll have to carve out parking space for the delivery trucks. What is our city going to look like after this?”
In addition, there are some safety standards that have to be met.
In new developments, Canada Post requires that community mailboxes “should be located a minimum of nine metres from intersection corners so as not to hamper driver visibility.”
In Halifax, the municipal “Red Book,” which outlines infrastructure specifications, goes even further. It requires that community mailboxes not be within 30 metres of an intersection with traffic signals.
Furthermore, there are accessibility guidelines to follow. The city of Toronto, for example, requires that community mailboxes have a ramp for people in wheelchairs
Canada Post says the switch to community mailboxes will make delivery safer because parcels will no longer be left unattended on a porch or at a doorstep.
However, there is evidence that rural and suburban communal boxes are becoming a one-stop target for identity thieves.
With the decline of traditional letter-writing, a large proportion of mail nowadays is made up of government cheques, identity documents and credit cards.
Less than two weeks ago, the Ridge Meadows RCMP detachment in the B.C. Lower Mainland, said it would step up patrols around community mailboxes after receiving a number of reports of mail theft.
In nearby Langley, mail theft was so rampant that the township council passed a resolution in October asking Canada Post to provide more secure community mailboxes.
“There have been many break-ins at community mailboxes in our Langley community and other communities throughout British Columbia .... many of these break-ins were not anticipated by Canada Post, and consequently the community mailboxes were not designed or constructed to prevent vandalism and any type of mail theft,” the resolution said.
Households that are switched to community mailboxes will keep receiving the same mail – which includes flyers and direct-marketing pamphlets. Communal mailboxes end up littered with unwanted junk mail.
In Vaughan, north of Toronto, the city has struggled with the litter problem for nearly a decade. A fast-growing bedroom community, Vaughan has hundreds of super mailboxes and found that people either tossed away flyers or shoved unwanted mail in the gaps between each box.
The city complained to Canada Post in 2004 but the federal corporation refused to clean up or provide garbage bin. Nine years later, the problem remains. Last month, councillors were still debating complaints of littering and were considering a $26,000 pilot project to clean up the mess at some of the community mailboxes.