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View Full Version : What are These Green Mailboxes?


Lissa
03-19-2003, 10:53 PM
Around my town, there are army-green things, shaped exactly like the blue boxes in which you can place your mail. (And usually placed nearby a mail box, which leads me to believe they're used by the postal service somehow.) They have "NOT FOR THE DEPOSIT OF MAIL" stenciled on the sides in white, and also have no obvious access points, though I have not examined them any more closely than one can do while driving by.

I have no idea what these things are, and have never seen anyone around them. My friends and I have had a lot of fun coming up with "conspiracy theories" explaining their purpose, but as enjoyable as speculation can be, I'd really like to know what they are.

Any ideas?

Nametag
03-19-2003, 11:04 PM
They're obsolete: "The so-called relay mail boxes were used by the Postal Service to distribute mail. Carriers would pick up the mail from the relay boxes and then visit their appointed rounds. Today, because mail deliveries are motorized the boxes are no longer necessary, but continue to sit as monuments to a bygone era."

http://www.house.gov/apps/list/press/ny09_weiner/020729eyebox.html

milquetoast
03-19-2003, 11:10 PM
They are drop-off points for pre-sorted mail to be delivered.

Instead of a mail carriers having to lug the whole day's mail from the start of the route, he/she only starts out with a portion of the mail they are to deliver. After delivering that portion of mail, the pick up the next portion from a green box and proceed with their route.

The have no apparent access because they are locked. Mail carriers have keys to unlock the side of the box.

stuyguy
03-19-2003, 11:26 PM
They may be obsolete in Rockaway, Queens, but they are alive and active elsewhere in the 5 boroughs of NYC -- and the rest of the USA, I suspect.

Exapno Mapcase
03-19-2003, 11:35 PM
Back during a previous war (no, not the Civil War) when I worked summers delivering mail, I worked out of my own car in the city. (And in some suburbs as well. Those were the days of bench seats, so for some routes I would sit on the passenger side, tap the accelerator with my left foot, hold my left hand on the steering wheel and make my way down the street sticking my hand out the passenger window and loading mail into curbside boxes, contorting my body to reach the break with my left foot at each house. Very weird. Very unsafe.)

But in the city I would have mail done up in bundles corresponding to blocks or half blocks. I'd drive to the route and find the green box, usually at the corner of two intersecting streets. All the extra bundles and packages would go into the box. Then I'd put the first bundle in my mail bag and do a section of the route in one direction, come back pick up a new bundle and do another direction and so on until all four directions were done. Then I'd either move to another green box or, more likely, hike a block or two to the start or a new section.

It worked very well because the routes had all been laid out with these starting points in mind.

They have mostly been removed here as being obsolete.

Lissa
03-20-2003, 12:30 AM
Originally posted by stuyguy
They may be obsolete in Rockaway, Queens, but they are alive and active elsewhere in the 5 boroughs of NYC -- and the rest of the USA, I suspect.

There are at least six that I know of in my town, and they appear to be well-maintained. (The paint is relatively fresh, in that there's no chipping, or rust.)

NoGoodNamesLeft
03-20-2003, 09:04 AM
-still in use here in Southern Ontario, Canada.

Tia3child
03-20-2003, 09:54 AM
I don't see any down here but when I was living at mother's house up north they used them. Down here they all have those funny looking trucks.

dwc1970
03-20-2003, 11:09 AM
Can somebody post a link to a picture of one of these relay boxes? I'd like to see what one looks like since I have never seen them around here. I tried to look for one using Google's image search, but "relay box" mostly turned up a bunch of pictures of electronic components.

An Arky
03-20-2003, 11:16 AM
I've seen them in Clarendon, here in Arlington. Don't know if they're being used, though. They look exactly like a regular blue mailbox painted drab.

Spectre of Pithecanthropus
03-20-2003, 01:11 PM
It doesn't surprise me that they're obsolete. I never quite understood the logistics: If the mail carrier was walking his route, he could pick up the mail for each block (or each whatever), from the relay box; that way he didn't have to carry all the mail for his route at once. I understand that. But if they had to send the truck around anyway to fill the relay box, what was the point of having the carrier walk the route?

missbunny
03-20-2003, 01:25 PM
I live in a big city and the mail is most definitely not "motorized." Probably because there is no place to park and on many streets, double-parking would prevent anyone else from going through. So the mailpeople carry their bags from block to block and they definitely use those green boxes - I've seen them unloading from them a hundred times.

Ferret Herder
03-20-2003, 01:26 PM
Originally posted by Spectre of Pithecanthropus
I never quite understood the logistics: If the mail carrier was walking his route, he could pick up the mail for each block (or each whatever), from the relay box; that way he didn't have to carry all the mail for his route at once. I understand that. But if they had to send the truck around anyway to fill the relay box, what was the point of having the carrier walk the route?

Here's the situation: in the suburbs or places where you can park a mail truck and there aren't curbside mailboxes, the carrier's vehicle serves as the relay box - it holds all the extra mail while the carrier walks from house to house and delivers the mail. But in some areas where parking sucks, or where the post office doesn't have enough vehicles for carriers to do this, they send a big truck out to drop the mail off at the relay boxes.

So why not just deliver the mail instead of dropping it in the relay box?
- Again, lack of parking.
- It takes a lot of time to run up to each house and drop the mail off. Remember, these aren't curbside mailboxes in the city or many suburbs.

dbygawdcapn
03-20-2003, 01:27 PM
Originally posted by Spectre of Pithecanthropus
But if they had to send the truck around anyway to fill the relay box, what was the point of having the carrier walk the route? It reduces the need to supply a vehicle for each route. One driver using one truck could drop off the relay bundles for multiple routes.

Davebear
03-20-2003, 01:27 PM
Originally posted by Spectre of Pithecanthropus
But if they had to send the truck around anyway to fill the relay box, what was the point of having the carrier walk the route? The point is that, in urban areas that don't have curbside mailboxes, you can't deliver the mail by truck. (Well, you could, but it would Monty Python silly.) At the same time, you also can't expect a walking mail carrier to haul hundred of pounds of mail around on his shoulder. So, they compromise, by having the trucks drop off the mail at the relay points, where the mail carriers pick it up and distribute it.

This is still how it's done in the Boston area. Downtown, they often just meet at the lobby of a large office building. I have no idea how it's done in places that have eliminated the relay boxes.

stuyguy
03-20-2003, 01:28 PM
I can't speak of the rest of the USA where curbside rural and suburban mail delivery is probably the norm, but here in NYC those relay boxes are essential and not likely to be deemed obsolete any time soon.

Virtually all mail in Manhattan is delivered by foot carriers, usually pushing one of those wheeled "urban mules," as a friend of mine calls them. Remember, some apartment and commercial buildings here have as many residents as an entire small town. So, it is not uncommon to see three relay boxes lined up side-by-side on one street corner.

stuyguy
03-20-2003, 01:30 PM
Oops. Davebear posted basically the same info as me, but a minute faster. Sorry. I must learn to type faster.

furlibusea
03-20-2003, 01:52 PM
They are not completely obsolete they were still being used as of two years ago when I was a carrier. The point is there is one truck that does the drop offs. That truck may also do the drop offs for several routes at the same time. It maybe that the person doing the drop offs is on the disabled list, or that those drop offs are part of another carrier's route. The point of having a truck deliver 12 blocks worth of mail to one location is that he just puts it in the box he does not spend the next two hours delivering it. The boxes aren't at each block they are at various locations on a route sometimes up to 12 blocks appart usualy 3 or 4.

The way the system works is that the carrier sets up the route and bags it and someone delivers the bags to the right boxes. that driver is also often supposed to deliver outsized packages as well. The carrier who delivers the route does not use a vehicle at all. For an inner city route this is extreemly practicle. There is no having to deal with parking, No vehicle maintanence, and no vehicle to break into on the street. There were a couple drawbacks. Sometimes the people delivering the bags were less than carefull about where they put the bags. you could get to almost the end of the route and discover that you didnt have the right mail for the next 4 splits and you would have to walk a mile to get the right stuff then back again. Sometimes on a very heavy day it was hard to set up the route so as not to be overloaded the whole day. If you had to go pee fast on a walking route it could be a huge problem, but on all routes you learn where it was good to stop and learned to take advantage of those opportunites whether you had to at the moment or not. The walking routes were also harder to learn and harder to set up than what they called the park and loops. those are the ones you have your own vehicle and just work it out of the truck. I liked the walking routes on my string. No one ever tried to park me in to get directions, I never slid into a ditch in a snowstorm, and it was a lot harder to for people looking for food stamps to track me down on the street than when I had a big old white truck anouncing my general location.

(the sliding into a ditch thing is because those trucks are aluminum so they don't weigh anything for their size, and they also have a wider back wheelbase than front wheelbase. They are rear wheel drive. In snowy conditions if you pull away from a mail box wrong the back end pulls ahead of the front end and you slide into a ditch. Most everyone does it at least once on a driving route.)

Spectre of Pithecanthropus
03-20-2003, 06:40 PM
Originally posted by Davebear
The point is that, in urban areas that don't have curbside mailboxes, you can't deliver the mail by truck. (Well, you could, but it would Monty Python silly.) At the same time, you also can't expect a walking mail carrier to haul hundred of pounds of mail around on his shoulder. So, they compromise, by having the trucks drop off the mail at the relay points, where the mail carriers pick it up and distribute it.

This is still how it's done in the Boston area. Downtown, they often just meet at the lobby of a large office building. I have no idea how it's done in places that have eliminated the relay boxes.
I suppose it makes sense, especially if the truck does its rounds at a time when when traffic is light, and the truck parking or briefly standing in the road isn't a problem.