As our neighbours in Victoria, Colwood, Saanich, Esquimalt, View Royal and Songhees Nation face changeover from mail service at the door to community mailboxes, politicians and residents here in Oak Bay still have more questions than answers.
“I think that the imposition or retrofit of those super mailbox sites into established neighbourhoods is going to have the potential to damage the neighbourhood and streetscape,” said Patrick Frey, a south Oak Bay resident and resident appointee on the recent Official Community Plan Advisory Committee. “I think there are issues as well in safety and accessibility. These communities were not designed with that in mind.”
A pair of local politicians hold out hope Canada Post will halt the planned elimination of home mail delivery to 20,000 households in the Capital Region.
“I wrote to the CEO of Canada Post in July with practical questions about how this would be implemented in Greater Victoria. It’s disappointing to see Canada Post move ahead before answering any of those basic questions about cost, safety and accessibility,” said Victoria MP Murray Rankin.
Oak Bay Mayor Nils Jensen shares Frey’s concern over impact of community mailboxes on established neighbourhoods.
“We work very hard to preserve the streetscapes in neighbourhoods and our villages,” said Jensen. “We work to maintain the character of these areas. We don’t want huge boxes blighting our boulevards. We don’t want traffic jams or parking issues. If Canada Post goes ahead without listening to residents or council, it’s not going to work for Oak Bay.”
Too many questions remain, Frey said.
“The infrastructure investment to achieve the mailbox sites is going to be pretty substantial,” said Frey. If costs are downloaded onto municipalities: “That’s going to take scarce money away from other uses including at the local level implementation of some of the stuff that’s in the OCP.”
Rankin, Jensen and Frey all want assurances that residents won’t be forced to foot the bill for new infrastructure.
“Canada Post wants to have it both ways. They’re saying it’s a cost-saving measure but they’re also saying it’s driven by the decline in hard copy mail,” said Frey. “If you take that to its logical conclusion, the question becomes in 10 years is almost everything going to be electronic? Is this huge investment for this purpose going to be short term? … There are some real questions about that that need to be addressed.”
The streets in his neighbourhood, Frey notes, are not designed with these things in mind.
“It’s quite a different thing when you’re trying to retrofit them into these established neighbourhoods,” he said.
He fears the narrow streets and short blocks, with extra people getting in the car to pick up the mail, will cause safety concerns. He envisions U-turns and unnecessary backing up.
“Human nature being what it is, I can picture a lot of people getting in their car and driving a short distance,” he said. “What you’ll see is traffic congestion, and people making potentially bad decisions about how they access the site.”
After a public outcry earlier this year from seniors’ groups and persons with disabilities who rely on home mail delivery, Canada Post committed to providing specific accommodation to those who lack alternatives. Rankin says requiring a “doctor’s note” is far from a workable solution.
“What they’re offering is a 1-800 number that you’re to call and give your confidential medical information to Canada Post,” Rankin said. “The Canadian Medical Association has already rejected this approach as costly and irresponsible. They’re cutting jobs for postal workers and making work for doctors.”
No postal codes in Oak Bay have been slated for changeover yet. While all of Canada will be converted away from door-to-door delivery over the next five years, a total of 18,008 addresses in Victoria, Langford, Colwood, Esquimalt, View Royal and Songhees are to be converted by next fall.
Canada Post has launched a program which offers those residents multiple opportunities to have a say in where those boxes will go.
“Houses will receive the informational kit (in the VNA and VNB postal code zones) from Canada Post this week confirming they’re part of the conversion and inviting feedback,” said Canada Post spokesperson Anick Losier. “We localize the information on where to put the boxes at granular level within the street, and that comes from the community and municipality level.”
Canada Post’s priorities are to blend the community boxes into the region as best as possible while respecting urban design, attention to accessibility, safety, high traffic and sidewalks, Losier said.
– with files from Saanich News