-- Mail delivery is about to slow down.
The U.S. Postal Service says it needs to close more than half its 487 processing centers to save $3 billion a year.
That means first-class mail will have to travel farther and will arrive in two to three days instead of one to three.
The move sometime next year, along with other planned changes, is part of a $20 billion cost reduction plan the Postal Service needs to implement by 2015 to become solvent, Postmaster General Pat Donahoe said Monday.
The cost of a first-class stamp will go up a penny to 45 cents on Jan. 22. And the Postal Service is asking Congress for permission to end Saturday delivery.
As more people pay bills online, the Postal Service has been losing 7% of its first-class business, which accounts for half its revenue, every year for three years, Donahoe said.
Closing processing centers does not require congressional approval.
The news "does tick me off," says Fran Metzman, 74, of Philadelphia, who uses first-class mail to pay bills and send cards to her grandchildren in San Francisco. She sometimes pays her bills "in the nick of time," but, "Now in a busy world I have to think even further ahead," she says. "Maybe this will push me do it online."
Donahoe said the processing centers that are left will run 20 hours a day instead of 10 to 12 hours a day now.
"You have to change the service standards," he said. "So local mail would be a two-day product rather than a one-day for mail dropped in the blue mailbox."
"When you have a gigantic technology shift like we've experienced, it's awfully hard without substantial changes to get your head above water," Donahoe said.
Sally Davidow, a spokeswoman for the American Postal Workers Union, says the changes are "exactly the wrong way to go."
The Postal Service "should be finding the ways to modernize and speed and improve service to the American people," Davidow said. "Instead, this will slow mail and make it less relevant in the digital age."
Congress can help ease the financial shortfall by fixing what the union and the Postal Service believe is a multibillion-dollar overpayment into employee pension and retiree health care funds, Davidow says.
Some mail could still be delivered in one day, Donahoe said, if it reaches the post office early enough.
Ron Epstein, president of the Western Publishing Association, which represents hundreds of magazines, said, "You'll see production managers pulling their hair out" to meet earlier deadlines.