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.
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. Depending on factors such as the high cost of housing in city centres, lack of public transit, and traffic congestion, modes of travel may include automobiles, motorcycles, trains, aircraft, buses, and bicycles. Where Los Angeles is infamous for its automobile gridlock, commuting in New York is closely associated with the subway; in London and Tokyo and several European cities, "commuter" is automatically associated with rail passengers. In the near future there may be another move away from the traditional "commute" with the introduction of flexible working. Some have suggested that many employees would be far more productive and live healthier, stress-free lives if the daily commute is removed completely.