Commuter town

A commuter town is a populated area with residents who normally work elsewhere, but in which they live, eat and sleep. The term additionally implies a community that has little commercial or industrial activity beyond a small amount of locally oriented retail business.

A commuter town may be called by many other terms: "exurb" (short for "extra-urban"), "bedroom community" (Canada and northeastern US), "bedroom town", "bedroom suburb" (US), "dormitory town", "dormitory suburb", or, less commonly, "dormitory village" (Britain/Commonwealth/Ireland). In Japan, a commuter town may be referred to with the wasei-eigo coinage "bed town" (ベッドタウン beddotaun).[1]

Commuters in Maplewood NJ
Many municipalities in the US state of New Jersey can be considered commuter towns. Here, riders wait in Maplewood for a train bound for New York City during the morning rush hour.

Distinction between suburbs and commuter towns

Camarillo, California, a typical U.S. bedroom community made up almost entirely of homes, schools and retail outlets

Suburbs and commuter towns often coincide, but are not synonymous. Similar to college town, resort town and mill town, the term commuter town describes the municipality's predominant economic function. A suburb, in contrast, is a community of lesser size, density, political power and/or commerce comparative to a nearby community that is usually of greater economic importance. A town's economic function may change, for example when improved transport brings commuters to industrial suburbs or railway towns in search of suburban living. Some suburbs, for example Teterboro, New Jersey and Emeryville, California, remained industrial when they became surrounded by commuter towns; many commuters work in such industrial suburbs but few reside in them; hence, they are not commuter towns.

As a general rule, suburbs are developed in areas adjacent to a main employment center, such as a town or a city, but may or may not have many jobs locally, whereas bedroom communities have few local businesses, and most residents who have jobs commute to employment centers some distance away. Commuter towns may be in rural or semi-rural areas, with a ring of green space separating them from the larger city or town. Where urban sprawl and conurbation have erased clear lines among towns and cities in large metropolitan areas, this is not the case.


Commuter towns can arise for a number of different reasons. Sometimes, as in Sleepy Hollow, New York or Tiburon, California, a town loses its main source of employment, leaving its residents to seek work elsewhere. In other cases, a pleasant small town, such as Warwick, New York, over time attracts more residents but not large businesses to employ them, requiring denizens to commute to employment centers. Another cause, particularly relevant in the American South and West, is the rapid growth of once-small cities. Owing largely to the earlier creation of the Interstate Highway System, the greatest growth was seen by the sprawling metropolitan areas of these cities. As a result, many small cities were absorbed into the suburbs of these larger cities.

Often, however, commuter towns form when workers in a region cannot afford to live where they work and must seek residency in another town with a lower cost of living. The late 20th century dot-com bubble and United States housing bubble drove housing costs in Californian metropolitan areas to historic highs, spawning exurban growth in adjacent counties. For example, most cities in western Riverside County, California can be considered exurbs of Orange County, California and Los Angeles County, California. As of 2003, over 80% of the workforce of Tracy, California was employed in the San Francisco Bay Area.

A related phenomenon is common in the resort towns of the American West that require large workforces, yet emphasize building larger single-family residences and other expensive housing. For example, the resort town of Jackson, Wyoming has spawned several nearby bedroom communities, including Victor, Idaho, Driggs, Idaho, and Alpine, Wyoming, where the majority of the Jackson workforce resides. On Long Island, New York, many of the workforce who serve The Hamptons also reside in communities more modest and more suburban than their workplace, giving rise to a daily reverse commuter flow from more dense to less dense areas.

In certain major European cities, such as Berlin and London, commuter towns were founded in response to bomb damage sustained during World War II. Residents were relocated to semi-rural areas within a 50-mile (80 km) radius, firstly because much inner city housing had been destroyed, and secondly in order to stimulate development away from cities as the industrial infrastructure shifted from rail to road. Around London, several towns – such as Basildon, Crawley, Harlow, and Stevenage – were built for this purpose by the Commission for New Towns.

In some cases, commuter towns can result from negative economic conditions. Steubenville, Ohio, for instance, had its own regional identity along with neighboring Weirton, West Virginia until the collapse of the steel industry in the 1980s. Combined with easier access to the much larger city of Pittsburgh via the Steubenville Pike and the Parkway West, Steubenville has shifted its marketing efforts to being a commuter town to Pittsburgh, as well as one with a lower cost of living in Ohio compared to tax-heavy Pennsylvania. In 2013, Jefferson County, Ohio (where Steubenville is located) was added to the Pittsburgh metropolitan area as part of its larger Combined Statistical Area.[2]


Where commuters are wealthier and small town housing markets weaker than city housing markets, the development of a bedroom community may raise local housing prices and attract upscale service businesses in a process akin to gentrification. Long-time residents may be displaced by new commuter residents due to rising house prices. This can also be influenced by zoning restrictions in urbanized areas that prevent the construction of suitably cheap housing closer to places of employment.

The number of commuter towns increased in the US and the UK during the 20th century because of a trend for people to move out of the cities into the surrounding green belt. Historically, commuter towns were developed by railway companies to create demand for their lines. One 1920s pioneer of this form of development was the Metropolitan Railway (now part of London Underground) which marketed its Metro-land developments. This initiative encouraged many to move out of central and inner-city London to suburbs such as Harrow and out of London itself, to commuter villages in Buckinghamshire or Hertfordshire. Commuter towns have more recently been built ahead of adequate transportation infrastructure, thus spurring the development of roads and public transportation systems. These can take the form of light rail lines extending from the city centre to new streetcar suburbs and new or expanded highways, whose construction and traffic can lead to the community becoming part of a larger conurbation.

In the United States, it is common for commuter towns to create disparities in municipal tax rates. When a commuter town collects few business taxes, residents must pay the brunt of the public operating budget in higher property or income taxes. Such municipalities may scramble to encourage commercial growth once an established residential base has been reached.

A 2014 study by the British Office for National Statistics found that commuting also affects wellbeing. Commuters are more likely to be anxious, dissatisfied and have the sense that their daily activities lack meaning than those who don’t have to travel to work even if they are paid more.[3]

In Belgium, the development of traditional rural Flemish towns surrounding Brussels into commuter towns is causing major language tensions, as most of the newcoming commuters are French-speaking or even international English-speaking families with no attachment to the Flemish roots. The Flemish movement in the Brussels-Halle-Vilvoorde area, with demands such as the strict enforcement of the Dutch language (restaurants with bilingual menus have been assaulted by activists, etc.) can be analyzed as a reaction against gentrification caused by the arrival of those wealthier non-Dutch speakers working in international companies, national administration or the European Parliament.


The word exurb ( a portmanteau of "extra & urban") was coined by Auguste Comte Spectorsky, in his 1955 book The Exurbanites, to describe the ring of prosperous communities beyond the suburbs that are commuter towns for an urban area.[4] Most exurbs serve as commuter towns, but most commuter towns are not exurban.

Exurbs vary in wealth and education level. In the United States, exurban areas typically have much higher college education levels than closer-in suburbs, though this is not necessarily the case in other countries. They also typically have average incomes much higher than nearby rural counties, and some have some of the highest median household incomes in their respective metropolitan area. However, depending on local circumstances, some exurbs have higher poverty levels than suburbs nearer the city.

Examples of exurbs in the U.S. include:

Then and now

Commuters from early exurbs, such as the end of Philadelphia's Main Line and the Northern Westchester region of Westchester County, New York, reached the city center via commuter rail and parkway systems.

Today's exurbs are composed of small neighborhoods in otherwise lightly developed areas, towns, and (comparatively) small cities. Some lie in the outer suburbs of an urbanized area, but a few miles of rural, wooded, or agricultural land separates many exurbs from the suburbs. Exurbs may have originated independently of the major city to which many residents commute. Most consist almost exclusively of commuters and lack the historical and cultural traditions of more established cities. Many early 20th century exurbs were organized on the principles of the garden city movement.

Yesterday's sprawling exurbs, such as Forest Hills and Garden City, New York, often become a later decade's suburbs, surrounded and absorbed into a belt of infill.


Many suburbs within a metropolitan city proper enjoyed their greatest growth in the post-World War II period, after which growth slowed for several decades; however, since the 1990s extensive development has occurred outside of cities. There have also been significant growth differences between inside and outside metro boundaries; many developments typical of exurbs, such as the proliferation of big box retailers, lie just on the outside, due to older suburbs' being restricted by inner-city land-use politics while communities outside are free to develop and grow.

Some architects, environmentalists, and urban planners consider exurbs to be manifestations of poor or distorted planning. Comparatively low density towns – often featuring large lots and large homes – create heavy motor vehicle dependency.

They begin as embryonic subdivisions of a few hundred homes at the far edge of beyond, surrounded by scrub. Then, they grow – first gradually, but soon with explosive force – attracting stores, creating jobs and struggling to keep pace with the need for more schools, more roads, more everything. And eventually, when no more land is available and home prices have skyrocketed, the whole cycle starts again, another 15 minutes down the turnpike.

— Rick Lyman, The New York Times[8]

Others argue that exurban environments, such as those that have emerged in Oregon over the last 40 years as a result of the state's unique land use laws, have helped to protect local agriculture and local businesses by creating strict urban growth boundaries that encourage greater population densities in centralized towns, while slowing or greatly reducing urban and suburban sprawl into agricultural and timber land.[9]

See also


  1. ^ "ベッドタウンの英語・英訳 - 英和辞典・和英辞典 Weblio辞書" ["Beddo Tawn" - English Translation, English-Japanese Dictionary, Weblio Dictionary] (in Japanese). Retrieved 4 September 2015.
  2. ^ "Archived copy" (PDF). Archived from the original (PDF) on 2013-03-19. Retrieved 2014-08-31.CS1 maint: Archived copy as title (link)
  3. ^ "Commuting and Personal Well-being, 2014". Office for National Statistics. Archived from the original on 5 January 2016. Retrieved 7 May 2016.
  4. ^ Spectorsky, Auguste C. (1955). The Exurbanites. Lippincott, Philadelphia: J. B. Lippincott & Co. OCLC 476943.
  5. ^ "There and Back Again". The New Yorker. April 16, 2007.
  6. ^ "Exurbia" (PDF). June 2016.
  7. ^
  8. ^ Rick (December 18, 2005). "In Exurbs, Life Framed by Hours Spent in the Car". The New York Times. Retrieved April 28, 2008.
  9. ^ Wuerthner, George (March 19, 2007). "The Oregon Example: Statewide Planning Works". Bozeman New West. Retrieved January 27, 2011.

External links


Alella (Catalan pronunciation: [əˈleʎə]) is a village in the comarca (shire) of Maresme in

Catalunya, Spain. It is situated on the coast on the south-west side of the granite Litoral range. The town is known for its

wines, cava and perfumes, but is also a commuter town for nearby Barcelona. What used to be the old Roman Road (Via Augusta) uniting Rome and Andalusia, is still today a narrow road running through the village.


Bailieborough or Bailieboro (Irish: Coill an Chollaigh, meaning "the wood of the boar") is a town in County Cavan, Ireland. As of 2016, its population was 2,683. Bailieborough's proximity to the M3 motorway has made it a commuter town.

Blackburn, Aberdeenshire

Blackburn is a rapidly growing commuter town northwest of Aberdeen, Scotland, and is situated in Aberdeenshire. Local amenities include an industrial estate, primary school, nursing home, post office, Starbucks Drive Thru, local Co-op and a community hall which was publicly opened by The Princess Royal on 2 March 2005.

Bragança Paulista

Bragança Paulista is a municipality in the state of São Paulo in Brazil. The population is 160,665 (2015 est.) in an area of 512.6 km². The elevation is 817 m.

The city is famous for its traditional sausages, with several establishments claiming to sell the "real Bragança sausage". Bragança has become a commuter town due to its proximity to São Paulo and Campinas. As a result, real estate is developing at a fast pace and several gated communities have sprung up all over town.

The city is served by Arthur Siqueira Airport dedicated to general aviation.


Broxbourne is a commuter town in Hertfordshire, England, 17.1 miles (27.5 km) north-east of London, with a population of 15,303 at the 2011 Census.About a mile (1.6 km) north of Wormley and south of Hoddesdon, the town is near the River Lea, which forms the boundary with Essex, and 4.5 miles (7.2 km) north of the M25 motorway. To the west of the town are Broxbourne Woods, a National Nature Reserve.The Prime Meridian runs just east of Broxbourne.


Bussum (Dutch pronunciation: [ˈbɵsəm] (listen)) is a commuter town and former municipality in the Het Gooi region in the south east of the province of North Holland in the Netherlands. Since 2016, Bussum has been part of the new municipality of Gooise Meren.

Bussum had a population of data missing in 2017 and covered an area of 8.15 km2 (3.15 sq mi).

Cambridge, Tasmania

Cambridge is a suburb in the greater area of Hobart, capital of Tasmania, Australia. It is in the City of Clarence local government area. The suburb is situated in close proximity with Hobart International Airport and the Cambridge Aerodrome (Cambridge Airport), and is approximately 18 km to Hobart via the Tasman Highway. In recent years Cambridge had developed an Industrial estate and has become a popular commuter town for people working in Hobart.


Carrigaline (Irish: Carraig Uí Leighin, meaning "rock of Ó Leighin") is a town and civil parish in County Cork, Ireland, situated on the River Owenabue. It is about 14 km south of Cork city on the R611 regional road, which passes through the town, and just off the N28 national primary route to Ringaskiddy. Carrigaline grew rapidly in the late 20th century, from a village of a few hundred people into a thriving commuter town, although many locals still refer to it as "the village". The town is one of the key gateways to west Cork, especially for those who arrive by ferry from France.


Cuijk (Dutch pronunciation: [kœyk] (listen)) is a municipality and a town in upper southeastern Netherlands of pre-historic origin. Its existence is recorded on the Roman roadmap Tabula Peutingeriana under the name of Ceuclum. Cuijk is twinned with Maldon in Essex, UK. It is a big commuter town with very good public transport services to nearby Nijmegen. The nearest hospital is at Boxmeer and the nearest international airport is situated in the German town of Weeze. Cuijk has a railway station on the Nijmegen to Venlo railway.


Gurteen (Irish: Goirtín, meaning "little field") (often spelled Gorteen) is a village in County Sligo, Ireland. It is in the civil parish of Kilfree in the baronry of Coolavin. Gurteen has experienced quite a rise in development in the last number of years and has become, to some degree, a commuter town for people working in Sligo.

It lies on the intersection of the R293 road between Ballymote and Ballaghaderreen, and the R294 road between Boyle and Tobercurry.

Lafayette Hill, Pennsylvania

Lafayette Hill is a small unincorporated community in primarily Whitemarsh Township, Montgomery County in the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania. A small part of it is in Springfield Township.

Lafayette Hill is located just west of Philadelphia's Chestnut Hill neighborhood, and south of Plymouth Meeting. Lafayette Hill draws its name from the French General Marquis de Lafayette, who stayed there during the American Revolution.

Before the general decampment from Valley Forge in the spring of 1778, George Washington dispatched an estimated 2,200 troops under the command of Marquis de Lafayette to act as a defensive screen and to conduct reconnaissance of the British army, which had garrisoned in Philadelphia for the winter. The two forces had a brief engagement at nearby Barren Hill.

Today, Lafayette Hill is an affluent area with many parks and nature reserves. It is also home to a prominent Jewish community. Additionally, it is a commuter town, as many people travel to Philadelphia on workdays. Its main transit system is SEPTA.

Lafayette Hill is home to the Barren Hill Volunteer Fire Company, one of the oldest fire companies in the area. It was founded after a fire destroyed a farm along with several livestock in 1915. Currently, Barren Hill Fire Company has roughly 400 to 500 calls for service each year. Their 1977 firehouse is located on 641 Germantown Pike. Whitemarsh Township is also served by the Spring Mill Fire Company.

Lafayette Hill is served by the Colonial School District.

Some famous people from Lafayette Hill, Pennsylvania include: Terrence Howard, John Salmons, Da'Rel Scott, Brad Furman, Reece Whitley, Minturn Wright (author of Birds of the World: Recommended English Names), Las Vegas talent mogul Steve Kaye ,and retired NBA player Allen Iverson.

Midway Point, Tasmania

Midway Point is an outlying suburb of Hobart, capital of Tasmania, Australia. It is in the local government area of Sorell Council, and is located on a small peninsula with Orielton Lagoon on its eastern side and Pittwater (Tasmania) on its southern and western sides. The suburb meets the mid-way point of the Sorell Causeway from Hobart to Sorell, hence the name. Mc Gees Bridge is connected to Midway Point on the Pittwater side.

The suburb lies close to Hobart International Airport and is approximately 21 km to Hobart via the Tasman Highway. In recent years Midway Point has become a popular commuter town for people working in Hobart.

Mill Bay, British Columbia

Mill Bay is a commuter town of about 3,200 people located on Vancouver Island, British Columbia, Canada about 30 km (19 mi) north of Victoria, the capital.

Mill Bay was founded in the 1860s with lumber and milling as its primary industries, done at the mill on the bay. It is known for its ferry to Brentwood Bay on the Saanich Peninsula and the historic Malahat Drive, which is also a source of criticism due to frequent closures from either automobile accidents or weather conditions. Numerous suggestions have been made by various groups regarding a 'bypass' route (possibly a bridge), though as of 2007, the Brentwood-Mill Bay Ferry and the Malahat remain the best routes to Greater Victoria from the rest of Vancouver Island (a third route goes south from Lake Cowichan via Port Renfrew to Victoria). The MV Mill Bay that has served the ferry route since 1956 is named for the town but was taken out of service in 2011 and is now served by the MV Klitsa.


Oxted is a town and civil parish in the Tandridge district of Surrey, England, at the foot of the North Downs. It is 9 miles (14 km) south south-east of Croydon in Greater London, 8.5 miles (13.7 km) west of Sevenoaks in Kent, and 9 miles (14 km) north of East Grinstead in West Sussex.

Oxted is a commuter town with a railway station, with direct train services to London and has the district council offices. Its main developed area is contiguous with the village of Limpsfield. Six intermittent headwaters of the River Eden unite in the occasional market town including its furthest source, east of Titsey Place. The Eden feeds into Kent's longest river, the Medway. Only the southern slope of the North Downs is steep and its towns and farmland form the Vale of Holmesdale, a series of headwaters across Surrey and Kent to separate rivers.

The settlements of Hurst Green and Holland within the civil parish to the south, including a public house named after Oxted, are continuous but almost wholly residential areas (contiguous neighbourhoods).


Panazol (Occitan: Panasòu) is a commune in the Haute-Vienne department in the Nouvelle-Aquitaine region in west-central France.

Panazol is the third largest town in the department (by population), after Limoges and Saint-Junien. It can be considered as a commuter town.

Theo Sarapo, the singer, actor, and second husband of Édith Piaf died at Limoges on

August 28, 1970 on RD 941 at the Panazol exit, direction Saint-Léonard-de-Noblat (Haute-Vienne). His car, a blue Citroen ID19, left the road at high speed and struck a tree the approximate height of Chateau de la Rue. He was removed from the wreckage and rushed to the Limoges hospital, where he died as a result of his injuries at the age of 34. He was buried in Paris at Père-Lachaise cemetery alongside Édith Piaf.

Inhabitants are known as Panazolais.


Takatsuki (高槻市, Takatsuki-shi) is a city in Osaka Prefecture, Japan.

As of 2016, the city had an estimated population of 350,914 and a population density of 3,300 persons per km². The total area is 105.31 km².

The city was founded on January 1, 1943, and is almost directly between Kyoto and Osaka. Due to the convenience of being 13–15 minutes from Kyoto and Osaka by train respectively, the city has developed exponentially during the past recent 20 years. It is a commuter town, with people commuting to Kyoto and Osaka.

Virginia Water

Virginia Water is a commuter town or village in northern Surrey, home to the Wentworth Estate and the Wentworth Club. The place occupies a large minority of the Borough of Runnymede. Its name is shared with the lake on its western boundary: Windsor Great Park. Virginia Water is close to the M25, M4 and M3 motorways. Heathrow Airport is seven miles to the north-east.

A report from October 2015 listed Virginia Water as the most expensive town (excepting individual London boroughs) for property in the UK, having an average house price exceeding £1m. The 2011 Census showed the population of Virginia Water to be 5,940. Many of the homes are situated on the Wentworth Estate, the home of the Wentworth Club which has four golf courses. The Ryder Cup was first played there. It is also home to the headquarters of the PGA European Tour, the professional golf tour. The estate reached the headlines in 1998 when General Augusto Pinochet was kept under house arrest in one of its houses prior to his extradition.The town has a junction railway station within the estate. Frequent South Western Railway trains run to London Waterloo, Weybridge, Twickenham, Richmond, Staines, Feltham, Clapham Junction, Vauxhall and Reading.


Westervoort (pronunciation ) is a municipality and a town in the eastern Netherlands. The town has two rivers inside its borders, the Rhine and the IJssel. It is a commuter town closely linked to Arnhem, the capital of Gelderland, which is situated on the west bank of the IJssel river, the east bank being occupied by Westervoort. It is the smallest Dutch municipality by area.

White City, Saskatchewan

White City is a commuter town in the White Butte area of the Canadian province of Saskatchewan. White City is 10 kilometres (6 mi) east of Regina on the Trans-Canada Highway. The town is primarily populated by people who commute to work in Regina. The town's motto is "Your Way of Life".

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