Home | BaltimoreBrew.com
by Fern Shen7:07 pmMay 8, 20240

Key Bridge users were part of Baltimore’s blue-collar world, Census Bureau finds

Analysis by federal number-crunchers provides a socioeconomic profile of the drivers who traversed the now-broken span

Above: The Francis Scott Key Bridge before disaster struck on March 26. (U.S. Census Bureau)

In the wake of the collapse of the Francis Scott Key Bridge, U.S. Census Bureau analysts reviewed the data to develop a socioeconomic profile of those who crisscrossed it on a daily basis.

They found that users of the bridge were more likely to:

• Get up earlier in the morning and have longer commutes.

• Hold a high school degree as their highest educational attainment.

• Earn between $50,000 and $64,999 annually.

• Work in production, transportation and material-moving occupations.

In short, the data confirm what longtime locals understood intrinsically – the Key Bridge was a crossing point for blue-collar Baltimore, connecting two areas long oriented to manufacturing and shipping.

Census Bureau officials hailed the potential value of their analysis, which additionally provided such comparisons as home ownership, language spoken, race, age and sex of those who likely did, and did not, use the bridge in the metropolitan area.

“In a Census Bureau first, we combined American Community Survey (ACS) and public mapping data to determine the likely driving routes of Baltimore area commuters,” the agency said in a release today.

The effort is part of its Community Resilience Estimates program, which aims to provide metrics to show how socially vulnerable are neighborhoods in the U.S. to the impacts of disasters, including Covid-19.

“This provides a way to analyze information about people and the economy that may be useful to emergency managers,” the release noted. (See data table package).

Commute Time

Before its March 26 collapse, the 8,636-foot-long, steel-and-concrete bridge carried more than 12 million vehicles a year, or about 33,000 per day, according to Maryland transportation officials.

To calculate driving routes, the analysts combined ACS data and open source mapping software to identify a subset of commuters who likely drove across the Bridge on daily basis.

The ACS asks respondents to provide, in addition to income and occupation, their place of work, means of transportation to work and the time they typically began their commute. Other online tools enabled the bureau to identify and calculate driving routes.

Among the areas where the analysts found a distinct difference:

• A 25-29 minute commute – bridge commuters 17.8%, non-bridge commuters 7.9%.

• A 30-35 minute commute – bridge commuters 26.5%, non-bridge commuters 17.9%.

• Leaving before 5 a.m. – bridge commuters 10.8%, non-bridge commuters 4.7%.

• Ability to leave for work after 9 a.m. – bridge commuters 14.8%, non-bridge commuters 22.9%.

How the Key Bridge collapse may have disrupted one hypothetical commuting route for Baltimore area workers. (census.gov)

How the Key Bridge collapse disrupts one hypothetical commuting route for Baltimore area workers. (census.gov)

Income and Occupations

The data also showed a difference in education levels, income and the kind of work the two groups do.

A high school diploma was the highest level of education for 34% of those using the Key Bridge. For non-bridge users, the percentage dropped to 22%.

Less than 9% of bridge drivers had a graduate or professional degree. That compared to nearly 21% of non-bridge drivers.

Overall, those who crossed the Key Bridge had higher incomes, with many earning between $50,000 and $64,999 a year. Relatively few bridge users were in the lowest earnings bracket.

And nearly 30% were employed in production, transportation and material-moving jobs, a finding that differed significantly from non-bridge users, as shown in the graph below.

Socioeconomic Profile of Commuters Likely Affected by Bridge Collapse

Most Popular