Our existing knowledge of the links between urban growth and commuting patterns are dominated by cases from developed countries. This paper examines the impact of urban growth on workers' commutes using the case of Beijing, which is undergoing rapid economic and spatial restructuring. The results of an analysis of household survey data show that clustered and compact urban development in planned sub-centres is likely to reduce suburban workers' need for a long-distance commute to the city centre when the workers' socio-economic characteristics, the level of transport accessibility and household preferences for residential location are taken into account. Workers employed in the manufacturing sector tend to have shorter commutes and travel within the planned suburban sub-centres. This reveals that the decentralization of employment in the manufacturing sector provides more opportunities to enhance the spatial matches between household residential and job location choices. Household preferences for residential location have an effect on commuting patterns, and high-income workers are likely to accept longer commutes in order to fulfil their residential preferences. Dramatic urban restructuring, in conjunction with changes in lifestyle, is creating new commuting patterns in the rapidly growing cities of China.