Commuters evenly split between cities

30 percent work in Baltimore area, the same in Washington

2000 Census data revealed

About 38 percent of residents found to have jobs in county

March 06, 2003|By Jamie Smith Hopkins | Jamie Smith Hopkins,SUN STAFF

The line separating Baltimore and Washington is drawn through Howard County.

Thirty percent of county residents commuted to jobs elsewhere in the Baltimore region in 2000, according to the numbers released today, and 30 percent commuted to jobs around the nation's capital.

That is about 40,000 people commuting to each metropolitan area.

The percentage breakdown has changed only slightly since 1990, despite job growth and a population boom in the county since then.

In a place squeezed between two job magnets - defining Howard in ways from traffic to salaries to the football team people root for - the pull of each is holding steady.

"We're standing on both those legs," said Richard W. Story, chief executive officer of the local Economic Development Authority, who has noticed an even split between which city people turn to for television and radio.

Phillip Salopek, a Census Bureau demographer, said Howard's commuting pattern is unusual, partly because most places in the nation do not have two metropolitan regions next to each other.

"A lot of times, a particular county really does have a focus in one direction," he said.

Howard is clearly a place tied to the outside: Statewide, it is the jurisdiction with the lowest share of residents who also work in the county, 38 percent. Most of Howard's 133,000 jobs are held by people who live somewhere else.

But Jeff Bronow, who evaluates census data for the county, is pleased to hear that the number as well as the portion of residents who work in the county has risen.

Roughly 12,000 more residents had jobs in Howard in 2000 than in 1990.

"That's a good sign," he said. "Part of that could be attributable to the extensive job growth in Howard County itself - more job opportunities for everybody, including those who live in Howard County."

"I think that's what everybody wants - people living closer to where they work," Bronow added.

People commuting to Howard for work largely hail from Baltimore County (16 percent of the work force), Anne Arundel (12 percent) and Baltimore City (7 percent).

Some were willing to drive a fair bit to work in the county. More than 500 people commuted from Washington, about 450 from Fairfax County, Va., and about 300 from York County, Pa., up from 1990 in each case.

"There are people coming from all over," said Joe Staub, president of the Howard County Education Association, whose records show that some teachers are commuting from outside the state.

About 3,000 folks who worked in Howard County in 2000 lived outside Maryland, some as far away as Florida, Texas and Colorado.

But that is because people were asked to list where they had worked the week before filling out their census forms, which catches business travelers and soldiers stationed away from home.

Ten percent of Howard residents were working outside Maryland at the time, mostly in Washington but plenty were scattered from New York to California.

More than 100 were working out of the country - particularly in England, Saudi Arabia and Bosnia.

Samuel Levine fits into that group. The 47-year-old Columbia resident, a civilian working for the Army, is away "three weeks out of the month," said his wife, Nancy Levine, also 47. Most of the time, he is out of the country.

It makes for lots of souvenirs. "But it's not compared to him being at home," she said wryly.

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