Salisbury's location at the head of Wicomico River was a major factor in growth. At first it was a small colonial outpost of Lord Baltimore's. The river was the only navigable waterway leading out to the Chesapeake Bay for early settlers. In 1732, Salisbury became an official port, growing to be second only to Baltimore as the most active seaport in Maryland.
Salisbury is located near several major cities: Baltimore 106 miles (171 km); Washington, D.C. 119 miles (192 km), Philadelphia 128 miles (206 km), Norfolk 132 miles (212 km), Dover 50 miles (80 km), and Wilmington 96 miles (154 km).
Salisbury is the principal city of the Salisbury-Ocean Pines CSA, a Combined Statistical Area that includes the Salisbury metropolitan area (Somerset and Wicomico counties) and the Ocean Pines micropolitan area (Worcester County), which had a combined population of 155,934 at the 2000 census.
As of the census of 2000, there were 23,743 people, 9,061 households, and 4,802 families residing in the city. The population density was 2,145.5 people per square mile (828.1/km²). There were 9,612 housing units at an average density of 868.6/sq mi (335.2/km²). The racial makeup of the city was 60.71% White, 32.32% African American, 0.23% Native American, 3.19% Asian, 0.03% Pacific Islander, 1.47% from other races, and 2.06% from two or more races. Hispanic or Latino of any race were 3.39% of the population.
There were 9,061 households out of which 27.4% had children under the age of 18 living with them, 30.4% were married couples living together, 18.2% had a female householder with no husband present, and 47.0% were non-families. 33.5% of all households were made up of individuals and 12.2% had someone living alone who was 65 years of age or older. The average household size was 2.36 and the average family size was 3.00. In 2005, 324 new single family homes were built, with an average value of $119,358.
In the city the population was spread out with 21.8% under the age of 18, 21.8% from 18 to 24, 26.9% from 25 to 44, 17.0% from 45 to 64, and 12.5% who were 65 years of age or older. The median age was 29 years. For every 100 females there were 87.2 males. For every 100 females age 18 and over, there were 82.9 males.
The median income for a household in the city was $29,191, and the median income for a family was $35,527. Males had a median income of $26,829 versus $21,920 for females. The per capita income for the city was $15,228. About 16.5% of families and 23.8% of the population were below the poverty line, including 28.9% of those under age 18 and 10.2% of those age 65 or over.
Salisbury is served by two major highways - U.S. Route 13, one of the major north-south routes of the Delmarva Peninsula, and U.S. Route 50, one of the major east-west routes on the peninsula. U.S. 13 connects Salisbury to Dover, Delaware and Norfolk, Virginia and is known as the Ocean Highway, while U.S. 50 serves as the main route between the Baltimore/Washington region and many of the major cities in the Delmarva, including Ocean City; it is known as the Ocean Gateway. U.S. 13 and U.S. 50 originally ran through the central business district, but have been subsequently rerouted onto the Salisbury Bypass, a 3/4 beltway around the city that allows through traffic on U.S. 13 and U.S. 50 to bypass the downtown area; earlier routes of both highways are now U.S. Route 13 Business and U.S. Route 50 Business. Earlier still, U.S. 13 was routed along Division Street and U.S. 50 along Main Street.
The city is also served by Maryland Route 12, a rural highway that connects Salisbury to the town of Snow Hill and U.S. Route 113, and Maryland Route 349, a rural highway that connects Salisbury to Nanticoke and Quantico.
The city is served by daily scheduled commercial airline service at the Wicomico Regional Airport. Additionally, the Port of Salisbury offers respite for recreational boaters and commercial tug boats. Salisbury's navigable stop, on the Wicomico River, is the second largest and second busiest commercial port in Maryland.
The city is also served by Shore Transit. Shore Transit provides local bus service throughout the city, and also services points outside the city. The major transfer point is on Calvert Street, in downtown Salisbury.
Fares are at reasonable price. Special discounts are given to senior citizens. Additionally, in July 2008, a seven-day pass was introduced for all riders.
As of December 2008, the transit system has 5 lines throughout the city:
Shore Transit also connects to other points outside of the city:
Shore Transit loosely connects to the Ocean City's public transportation system, though their fares are separate.