Johns Creek and the Quest for a Zip Code

The scarecrow wants a brain, the tin man wants a heart and the lion wants courage. Johns Creek wants a zip code. They’ve enlisted the help of Congressman Tom Price to guide them down the political yellow brick road. Will the great Oz grant their wish?

I’m torn on this issue of zip codes for the new cities of the burbs. In some ways I think they are going for a vanity zip code, something that could become exclusive like 90210. It’ll be a unique Johns Creek number the country club ladies can get snobby about. Yet in other ways I think the zip code system is partially broken and a new zip code for the city makes stuff function better. First I’ll make the case against a new zip.

Zip codes belong to the post office. They were invented by the USPS and are maintained by them. They exist to make postal delivery more efficient. Zips do not follow political boundaries and never have. Asking the post office to create one or more zip codes exclusively within the boundaries of the city of Johns Creek is not realistic. The USPS has enough problems right now, I’m sure they don’t need political pressure brought down on them by Congressmen for the purposes of city identity.

On the flip side, zip codes are often misused and misunderstood. The post office recognizes a “default place name” for each zip code. Johns Creek is not a default name of any zip code, even though they exist partially in five zips. The USPS agreed to allow Johns Creek to be what they call an “acceptable place name” for four of the five zip codes. That’s not good enough for one big reason…

Poor software design. Yeah, I blame it on the software guys (like yours truly). Many software apps incorrectly assume a one-to-one relationship between zip code and city. So for example, when they see 30022, they assume “Alpharetta, GA” or vice versa. Acceptable place names are often not factored into many software applications. As a result, using a website to find a restaurant or get a weather forecast might not work if you type “Johns Creek” or “Milton” as the location.

So what’s the solution? I’d kinda like to see the USPS change the default place for 30022 and 30097 to Johns Creek. Those two zip codes are mostly in the city limits anyway. I’m sure this change would tick off folks in Alpharetta and Duluth. North Point Mall is in 30022 and I’m sure the businesses near there wouldn’t care for the change.

Or Johns Creek could hope for an outcome similar to what happened in Milton. In their case, 30004 was just about the only zip code in the new city. In 2008 the USPS carved out a new zip code from 30004. This new zip, 30009, is mostly downtown Alpharetta with just a few addresses in Milton. They said the change was for efficiency reasons, yet the line somewhat closely follows the city boundaries. I’m certain there was some political influence involved in this though. What is confusing to me is that 30004 still has a default place of “Alpharetta”. It really should be Milton.

Pulling off something like this in Johns Creek would be more difficult considering that five zip codes are involved. And those five zip codes have four distinct default place names. Is it all worth it? Is this a waste of political capital?

5 Responses to “Johns Creek and the Quest for a Zip Code”

  1. Dennis Murray August 10, 2010 at 3:41 pm #

    The upside to the outside world: it will ensure that JC is appropriately targeted by marketers!

  2. Lee August 11, 2010 at 2:44 pm #

    Very true! I don’t think the residents of JC have thought about that angle. This would increase the number of marketing ads targeted specifically at their affluence.

  3. John Doe October 6, 2010 at 7:33 pm #

    Problem is that many folks don’t draw any distinction between ZIP code and city. Because of this, literally thousands of people who live in JC don’t know it yet because “they haven’t gotten a letter from the Post Office”.

Trackbacks/Pingbacks:

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