Friday, September 02, 2005

Postal Street Delivery Assignments Confuse Travelers

Sometime in the '90s the United States Postal Service started randomly assigning street delivery designations that don’t coincide with physical location. In other words, to make it more convenient for USPS, a business or residence located in the City of Durham, is often assigned a USPS mail delivery address with the name of another city in a completely different county, e.g., Butner, Hillsborough, Morrisville or Chapel Hill.

No question this was apparently convenient for the Postal Service. Apparently it was important for the address to reflect the location of the building from which the carrier embarked. I even had one official try to argue that it was done because Durham didn’t care.

However it plays havoc with visitors and newcomers who use a mailing address to find an actual physical location. In fact, it isn’t just inconvenient: it’s cruel, often taking people miles out of their way only to find out the address didn’t actually reflect a location which, in truth, is in a completely different community.

It also confuses entire hotel chains who list properties in directories by mailing address, believing it’s a safe bet the physical location is the same. It has improved, but it still confuses online services that provide point-to-point directions. It is still a problem for some that use old hardwired databases. Newcomers have been so confused they've taken children to the wrong schools or mailed tax payments to the wrong city and county.

In the early '90s, Durham successfully argued to have the Morrisville addresses corrected that had been confusingly assigned to the entire SE part of the City of Durham including scores of hotels. Now, it’s time to correct the others.

It takes persistence and coordinated effort, but it can be done. A community’s brand and identity are pivotal to economic development as well as clear and accurate communication.

There has to be a better way for USPS to identify carrier routes, e.g., ZIP code.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Wrong postal addresses can cause confusion in other matters, as well.

My previous address was listed as Morrisville but was physically in Durham County. When I went to the good ol' DMV to get my NC Driver's License, they also offered to register me to vote -- not in Durham County, but in WAKE County, based on my mailing address (despite the fact that I was at a Durham DMV location). I corrected them and registered in Durham, of course, but it made me wonder -- how many people living in my apartment complex, or in these mistakenly-identified areas, only think they know what county they live in, based on their street addresses and what the DMV tells them? Most people who live in apartments don't have to deal with county services directly, so may not know or care specifically which county they live in, and may have mistakenly registered to vote in Wake or elsewhere. Are there checkpoints to prevent this, or is everything, including vehicle registration, etc., based on street address? When you go to vote, I know you have to show proof of address, but if that address is in Morrisville... Besides confusion to visitors, could Durham also be missing out on registered voters and property taxes based these mis-assigned street addresses, as well?