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Commuting is regular travel between one's place of residence and place of work or full time study. Institutions that have few dormitories or near-campus student housing are called commuter schools in the United Statesmarker.

Before the 19th century most workers lived less than an hour's walk from their work. Today, many people travel daily to work a long way from their own towns, cities and villages— especially in industrialised societies that can use modes of travel such as automobiles, motorcycles, trains, buses and bicycles;— sometimes by choice, sometimes when forced to do so by the high cost of housing in city centres or because of traffic congestion.

Commuting has had a large impact on modern life. It has allowed cities to grow to sizes which were previously not practical, and it has led to the proliferation of suburbs.

Many large cities or conurbations are surrounded by commuter belts, also known as metropolitan areas, commuter towns, dormitory towns, or bedroom communities. The prototypical commuter lives in one of these areas and travels daily to work in the core city.

As urban sprawl pushes farther and farther away from central business districts, new businesses can appear in outlying cities, leading to the existence of the reverse commuter who lives in a core city but works in the suburbs, and to a type of secondary commuter who lives in a more distant exurb and works in the outlying city or industrial suburb.

Most commuters travel at the same time of day, causing the morning and evening rush hours, with congestion on roads and public transport systems not designed or maintained well enough to cope with the peak demands.

Cars not carrying passengers use fuel and roads less efficiently than shared cars or public transport, and increase traffic congestion, But commuting alone by car is often a more efficient method for people doing so, as their travel times tend to be lower. Commuting by car is a major factor contributing to air pollution.

The suburbs in the United States and elsewhere tend to have less air pollution than their neighboring inner cities, even though more workers in the inner cities use public transport. Some governments and employers have introduced employee travel reduction programs that encourage such alternatives as car-pooling and telecommuting. Some are also using carpooling using Internet sites to save money. Alternatives like personal rapid transit have also been proposed to reap the energy-efficiency benefits of a mass transit system while maintaining the speed and convenience of individual transport.

The word 'commuter' derives from early days of rail travel in US cities such as New York, Philadelphia, Boston and Chicago, where, in the 1840s, the railways engendered suburbs from which travellers paying a reduced or 'commuted' fare into the city. Later, the back formations 'commute' and 'commuter' were coined therefrom. Commuted tickets would usually allow the traveller to repeat the same journey as often as they liked during the period of validity: normally the longer the period, the cheaper the cost per day.

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