Maryann Gamble is among thousands in Sarpy County who commute to work outside of town.
She loses about two hours driving to work from Bellevue to Lincoln at the Nebraska Game and Parks Commission.
While her commute might be longer than most, Gamble is in the majority of Bellevue residents who leave the city on workdays, even if that is partly offset by workers commuting to the city.
A recent analysis found that Bellevue experiences a net decrease of about 27 percent in its net daytime population. The same analysis found that Bellevue, Papillion, La Vista, Ralston and Chalco each have fewer than 20 percent of residents who work and live in the same city.
That means four out of every five Bellevue residents works elsewhere, whether that’s a daily trip to Lincoln or a short jaunt down Fort Crook Road to Offutt Air Force Base.
The analysis by a University of Nebraska at Omaha researcher was based on 2010 data from a report released last month by the U.S. Census Bureau. The net decrease represents the difference between the residents who work outside the city and those who commute to work in Bellevue.
The report shows Bellevue has a net loss of 13,750 workers during the day. Papillion, in contrast, loses about 8 percent, while La Vista loses 35 percent, according to the UNO analysis.
“That is a concern, but that seems to be a trend across the nation,” said Bellevue Mayor Rita Sanders. “People work in a place that pays a higher wage, but they live where it’s more affordable. It’s great for us that we have more affordable housing.”
That shift in population is somewhat misleading, though, because many Bellevue residents work at Offutt Air Force Base, the metropolitan region’s second-largest employer with about 9,700 workers, according to the Greater Omaha Chamber of Commerce. The base is designated a separate place from Bellevue by the U.S. Census Bureau.
The report’s author, David Drozd, a research coordinator for the UNO Center for Public Affairs Research, said many Sarpy County residents are likely to work near where they live.
“Both Bellevue and Papillion have a sizable employment base there locally so while a large portion commute out and go to Omaha, in all likelihood they still have a fair degree of people working there themselves,” Drozd said.
Drozd said Bellevue maintains its population with the Bellevue Medical Center and Bellevue Public Schools, while Papillion anchors its population with Midlands Hospital, the Papillion-La Vista School District and Sarpy County government offices.
A decrease in daytime population follows a state trend of commuter communities feeding workers into nearby larger cities. Bellevue had a population of 50,241 in 2010, according to census data.
The Offutt census designated place, which includes off-base housing on federally owned land, has a daytime population increase of 172 percent, Drozd said. Chalco, the unincorporated residential area north of Gretna and west of La Vista, is also a census designated place and experiences a population decrease of 32.9 percent.
The census data was based on surveys of cities or areas with 2,500 or more workers, totalling 34 places in Nebraska. Gretna, which had a population of 4,441 in 2010, fell just short of the worker threshold, Drozd said, with 2,440 people in the labor force.
The commuter population results compared city or area populations during the day with its night population, representing the end of the traditional work day.
Omaha benefits the most from the population decrease in surrounding communities. Population in the day increases by more than 85,000 people or 21 percent.
“It can be a tale of two cities,” Drozd said.
That doesn’t mean Sarpy County’s communities must define themselves by how many of their residents commute during the day.
“It’s important, but you have to realize and embrace what you are,” said Bellevue Assistant City Administrator Larry Burks. “There’s a lot of people that work in Omaha, but there’s a lot of people in Papillion and La Vista that live there and work in Bellevue like at the base or at the hospital.”
Gamble, who’s lived in Bellevue since 1998, has worked in Lincoln for five years.
She said it’s easier for her family to socialize and engage in communities in and around Bellevue.
“My kids like the schools there,” Gamble said. “We like the city and everything it has to offer. It’s close to shopping areas, and it’s more interactive.”
It’s also easier for her two daughters to visit with friends and gather a sense of community.
“You can talk to anyone in town,” she added. “It’s just a better environment.”