Wait a minute, Mr. Postman! Are we ready for community mailboxes?

Marcy Markusa, host of CBC's Information Radio, examines the debate over community mailboxes replacing door-to-door delivery in Winnipeg neighbourhoods.
What Canada Post's community mailboxes will look like when they are implemented in neighbourhoods across the country, including in Winnipeg, starting this fall. (Canada Post)

I'll be honest: I'm having a challenging time wrapping my head around the idea of community mailboxes.

I don't know if making the change is going to be a big deal or not — for me, at least.

We get door-to-door delivery at our house right now and I enjoy the daily ritual of getting home from work and lazily checking the mailbox out front to see if the carrier has come. I also like the privacy of receiving my bills and holiday cards in my own space.

I realize that I might sound outdated  and as acknowledged earlier, lazy — but these are simply aspects of home delivery that I've enjoyed over the years. It's like a little surprise at the end of the day to open up the mailbox see what's inside.

I also like seeing mail carriers walking up and down the street. I have a friend who has been a postal worker for many years and she has described lovingly the Winnipeggers she knows on her well-travelled route and her enjoyment of the West End neighbourhood where she works. I always think of her when I see others delivering the mail.

On the other hand, there is a community mailbox at the end of our street that provides service to a nearby row of attached houses.

When we have been out walking our dogs, I have watched the daily ritual at this box as well. It usually gets busy around 5:30 and often cars are idling or jockeying for position near the mailbox. It's located on the boulevard of an intersection that includes a dead end street.

I also see people who have made the short walk to pick up their mail, enjoying a chat with each other about the events of the day.

The community building aspect of "meeting at the mailbox" seems appealing in many ways, too, at least if it's been a good day.

Sentimentality aside, we will all have to get used to community mailboxes across the city very soon.

Many concerns being raised

The first neighbourhoods to make the switch in Winnipeg will be The Maples, Garden City, and West Kildonan.

There is a meeting tonight in that corner of the city where people will discuss their concerns. Based on the comments coming to our show this morning, it could be a long one.

On Facebook, it didn't take long for people to raise the potential issues for those living with mobility challenges, although not everyone who spoke up was part of that group.

Chantal Antonakis wrote on Information Radio's Facebook page:

"Being a very capable twenty-something and walking down the block to the bus all winter, I am concerned for people who are disabled, elderly, or use strollers for small children considering the state of the streets and sidewalks sometimes. Summer is one thing, but it is a challenge to get around in the worst of winter and early spring if you're not driving." 

Another listener, Thor Bielert, wrote on behalf of his elderly family members:

"We still get home delivery but my parents in Transcona are in their 70's and [their] MP expects them to trudge through the snow to get mail? SHAME!!!"

Mynarski Coun. Ross Eadie, who is visually impaired, spoke to us this morning and suggested that trudging might not be overstating it. He's worried the proposed plan would put the community boxes on boulevards in the middle of a city block. (You know, the boulevards — where the snow goes).

Eadie said he can't understand how the boxes won't be covered in snow. He also said it will make it necessary to plow lower-priority sidewalks that the city rarely gets to, especially during a winter like the one we just had.

Speaking of that winter, Erin Tee wrote to us on Facebook as well:

"I've lived in a neighbourhood with community mailboxes and now I live in one that currently has home delivery. I find that with community mailboxes, remembering to pick up the mail after a long day of work is a chore and in the winter can be frustrating, especially if a lot of snow means the mailbox is difficult to access."

I have to admit that I wonder if some of the concerns around community mailboxes are akin to traffic-calming circles or something else.

What I mean by that is when traffic-calming circles were announced, there were a lot of people who claimed that "the sky was falling."

As I recall, the paved circles in the middle of intersections, replacing four-way stop signs, were going to cause confusion and accidents, be impossible to navigate during the snowy winter, and pretty much ruin traffic flow as we know it.

None of that happened. It's like we got used to them and now they are just … well … there.

Have we lost the desire to connect?

Perhaps, however, this is not an issue of adapting to community mailboxes but a resistance to changing how we live in our communities.

Maybe we just don't want to walk. Perhaps we don't want to chat it up with our neighbours or go one step further and find out who on our streets needs us to pick up the mail for them because they aren't able to do it themselves.

Have we lost the desire to connect as little geographical communities?

Listeners like Jodi Daly would beg me to stop going on poetic tangents and keep my eye on the money.

She wrote, "If opponents were in charge of doing this budget and really saw the inefficiency of door to door, this would not be an issue. I want my tax dollars to be well budgeted and go to things like health care and education!"

And John Gowran wrote from outside of the city to bust a couple of stereotypes about who is going to struggle to get to the community mailbox. 

"I live in a rural town with community mailboxes and this is the way of the future. Home delivery is inefficient. Yes some elderly may find it hard but I at 74 use it as an exercise program with the dog and me."

As I mentioned, the meeting in The Maples will help all of us begin to make sense of what our new reality will be living with community mailboxes in Winnipeg.

In the meantime, you can tweet me @CBCMarcy to tell me what you think.

Or I suppose you could write me a letter. I'll look for it as soon as I get home. :)

About the Author

Marcy Markusa

Host, Information Radio

Marcy Markusa hosts Information Radio on CBC Radio One 89.3 FM / 990 AM in Winnipeg. Born and raised in the Manitoba capital, Marcy is passionate about the future of our community and loves how it's growing in both confidence and prosperity. She thrives on getting honest and straight-forward answers for listeners and infuses the show with her energetic warmth and sense of humour.


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