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'Supercommuters' on the rise

The number of people who commute more than 90 miles for work has nearly doubled in many cities over the past 10 years. Here, traffic comes to a standstill on the northbound and the southbound lanes of the Interstate 405 freeway near Los Angeles International Airport.

Jeremy Hobson: Most of us are commuters, whether by car, train, or on foot. But what about supercommuters?

Well according to new research from the Rudin Center for Transportation at N.Y.U., the number of Americans who can be called supercommuters has nearly doubled in many cities over the past 10 years.

Mitchell Moss is the director of the center and he joins us now.

Mitchell Moss: Good morning.

Hobson: Well first, give us an example of a supercommuter.

Moss: A supercommuter is someone who travels more than 90 miles to get to work. We find that in California, there's a huge growth of people coming from San Francisco to Los Angeles, and from San Diego to Los Angeles. The biggest growth we've seen is in the large metropolitan areas, which have grown by 50 percent over the past decade.

Hobson: And as the economy has gotten worse, the number of supercommuters has grown, it seems.

Moss: Yes, that's because people are not willing to give up their family roots, their home; they may not be able to sell it. And then in many ways, the job is so much more fragile. People are staying put physically rather than give up their home.

Hobson: So as the economy gets better -- which it does appear to be doing -- will the number of supercommuters go down or up?

Moss: We see this as a growing trend, especially in two-earner households where you can't find both people with top jobs in the same metropolitan area. I think we're also seeing the change in technology -- you can work from home two days a week, so you can go to an office for three days a week. There's more flexibility in the workplace than ever, because high-speed broadband in the home has made it almost the same as being in an office.

Hobson: Now you live in New York; I assume you're not a supercommuter.

Moss: I commute three blocks. I walk to work. That's one of the reasons Manhattan is so productive -- you don't really have to travel very far to get to work.

Hobson: Mitchell Moss is the director of the Rudin Center for Transportation Policy and Management at New York University, thanks so much.

Moss: Thank you.

About the author

Jeremy Hobson is host of Marketplace Morning Report, where he looks at business news from a global perspective to prepare listeners for the day ahead.
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The "family home" is in Michigan. I work in Baltimore. My wife works in Montreal. Does that count?

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