Return to Sender

Posted Feb. 12, 2010, at 6 p.m.

From a customer perspective, the point of moving the post office in Bangor is to make it more functional and accessible. From that point of view, the postal service’s decision to move to the former 3rd District Court building on Hammond Street doesn’t meet the criteria.

Moving from one hard-to-access location with limited parking to another doesn’t feel like progress to the city’s residents. This is especially true when there are alternatives that would allow more parking and a drive-through window. In the interest of full disclosure, empty space in the Bangor Daily News building was considered by the postal service, but it is not the only location on Main Street that would allow easy access. The former Miller’s Restaurant has long been under consideration.

The Bangor post office is in need of a new home because its lease at the Margaret Chase Smith Federal Building on Harlow Street is not being renewed. That building will soon undergo $53 million in renovations.

The Hammond Street location does have the advantage of being in the heart of downtown Bangor, within easy walking distance of the city’s many offices and downtown residents. But, since the bulk of the post office’s traffic is vehicular, ensuring the city’s residents can easily drive up to the post office and park within a reasonable distance are important considerations.

The Hammond Street location was rejected for the city’s new judicial center in part because of concerns about parking. This should be instructive to the postal service, where an emphasis on public service could help stem the tide of red ink.

Last year, postal officials told residents at a public hearing that a drive-through was not included in the Bangor plans because it now uses standardized construction for all its new buildings nationwide. Since the locations it has considered in Bangor don’t involve new construction, this is an invalid argument.

The postal service also said it was difficult to service both a walk-in counter and a drive-through window. Odd, then, that drive-throughs at other businesses are on the rise. Banks, coffee shops and restaurants long ago figured out how to manage both a drive-through and walk-in customers. In fact, many traditional sit-down restaurants are now adding drive-up spaces to attract more customers. Pharmacies have also added drive-throughs, presumably to better serve their customers.

At a time when the postal service says it is finding it difficult to compete with overnight delivery services and the increasing use of electronic communications, improving customer services seems a logical place to seek improvements.

Putting a new post office in an easily accessible location with ample parking and adding a drive-through would be big steps in that direction.

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