Ask Torontoist: How Fast Slow Does the Mail Go?
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Ask Torontoist: How Fast Slow Does the Mail Go?

Ask Torontoist features questions posed by you, and answered by our elite team of specially trained investigative experts (also known as our staff). Send your questions to [email protected].

Reader Nik Broukhanski asks:

How long does it take for a piece of mail dropped off in a mailbox to go across the city? What about down the street? I’d love to time it myself, but I’m sure you’d give it a zazzier response.

Torontoist answers:

First of all, we’re flattered by your faith in our zazziness. We hope this is the zazziest thing you read all day (or, at the very least, the most zazzy thing you read about the mail).
To answer this question, we decided to get experimental and epistolary (but not in, like, a bad first novel kind of way). In a highly scientific and rigorously controlled study, we sent out a zazzy cadre of letters addressed to eight friends scattered across the city and asked them to toss us an email when something turned up. No, the irony of this process is not lost on us.
We wish we could say that we wrote eight personal notes by hand and pressed the envelopes with a wax seal, but the truth is that we penned our own take on a chain letter on a laptop and printed off ten copies. We deposited the letters in a mailbox on Bloor Street West not far from Ossington Station in time to be collected the morning of February 1. And then we waited.
The distance our letters would have to travel ranged from up the street (0.7 kilometres, to be precise) to just over ten kilometres as the crow flies. One letter would be travelling over land and sea (ok, lake) to a Toronto Island resident. Not counting the Island destination, the letter with the furthest to go (11.4 kilometres, if you aren’t a crow) was one we could have hand-delivered ourselves in less than an hour if we jogged at a decent pace. But that isn’t the point of sending mail, right? Right.
The results of our little experiment, we’re afraid to say, are somewhat disheartening:

  • Three letters reached their destinations within two days.
  • One letter reached its destination in three days.
  • Two letters took fourteen and eighteen days to reach their respective destinations.
  • Two letters have not materialized as of publication: one of these was going to the Island, the other was being sent up the block.

In conclusion, there’s a 50% chance of a letter zipping across the city in three days or less, but there’s also a 50% chance that it will take two to three weeks or, possibly, not arrive at all.
Canada Post’s Eugene Knapik broke the intra-Toronto mailing process down for us. Any letter sent in the GTA is brought to a facility on Eastern Avenue and sorted there. For the most part, this is done mechanically using a “multi-line optical character reader” that scans the letters’ addresses and sends them into different bins, but anything awkwardly shaped and too thick for the machine is sifted by hand. Normally, Knapik says, a letter sent on the afternoon of any given day should be delivered to the facility that day, sorted overnight, and arrive at a local depot in time for the next morning’s delivery. When we asked him about what could slow a piece of mail’s pace to, say, fourteen or eighteen days, he says that an incorrect address or incorrect postage are common culprits. He admits that the letter could have been mis-sorted. Canada Post, Knapik says, hits its targets for delivery time with 96% accuracy.