Italian citizens’ mobility habits: the impacts of coronavirus

Before Covid-19, Italian citizens’ mobility habits were clearly very different from the ones of the last few days, and those expected in the near future. People will increasingly opt for mobility options that ensure greater safety, and probably not for the most cost-effective or environmentally friendly ones as they’ve done so far.

According to a recent research of ISTAT, the Italian National Statistics Institute, in 2019, 13 million of Italian people used public transport at least one time during the year, a quarter of the Italian population aged over 14 years old. Around 3 million of them used public transport every day in 2019, and another 3 million used it at least a few times during the week.

The train was used at least once by more than 17 million people aged over 14 years. Approx. 900k of them used it every day, and approx. 1 million a few times during the week.

The car was, by far, the most used mean of transport: 36 million Italians used it at least once during 2019, 67% of them used it every day. Car was preferred especially in smaller municipalities and in the Central regions of Italy.

The same research also estimated that, in 2019, about 30 million people had to reach their workplace or place of study every day: 22.4 million of them travelled on business, whilst 11.1 million for study purposes. It was estimated that approx. 50% of them took less than 30 minutes, and moved only within their own cities.

Moreover, employed people used mostly private vehicles to reach their workplace: 16.5 million used a private car or motorbike; 3 million people commuted by foot or bicycle. Only 2 million people used public transport, 1 out of 10 employed people.

Everything changed during the Covid-19 emergency, with great impact on the public transportation and micro-mobility sectors.

Moovit – the public transport journey planner acquired by Intel in US$ 900 million deal – analysed the repercussions of coronavirus on public transportation ridership in big metropolitan cities, relative to the typical usage before the outbreak began (LINK).

In Italy, during the strict lockdown period (March 18th – May 3rd), there was a reduction in the use of public transport equal to -88% (average of the main big Italian cities). As of May 20th (after 16 days of the so called “Phase 2”, the gradual relaxation of the lockdown measures), the reduction was still -75%. This means that, considering 6 million Italian people who regularly use public transport, there are 4.5 million people who are now moving using alternative transport means.

The Italian Government is now incentivising the purchase and use of bikes and scooters (including e-bikes and e-scooters, segways, hoverboards, monowheels, etc), with a bonus on the purchase cost capped at €500 and the extension of cycle lanes.

This will hopefully enhance the positive trend in the purchases of bikes registered in the previous few years. According to ANCMA, the Italian Association of Motorcycles and Accessories, more than 1.7 million bicycles were sold in Italy in 2019, with an increase of 7% compared to 2018. Today, the value of the Italian bike market is estimated € 1.35 billion.

Other alternative transport mean solutions are certainly the sharing mobility services.

Before the coronavirus outbreak, the sharing mobility sector was experiencing an important growth throughout the country.

According to the latest available report of the National Sharing Mobility Observatory (Osservatorio Nazionale Sharing Mobility), there were 363 innovative shared mobility services in Italy at the end of 2018, growing by 12% on average each year.

The total number of subscribers were 5.2 million, grew by 24% compared to the previous year (+ 1 million Italians). 30/35 million were the total number movements recorded in 2018, + 26% compared to the previous year.

Interesting was the growth of the electric vehicles, which represented 43% of the total number of vehicles available to users; in 2017, this number was equal to 27%.

In addition to being more electric, the shared vehicles are also getting lighter and less bulky: the average mass of motor vehicles had in fact decreased by 17% in the period 2015 and 2018.

What impacts will the new macroeconomic scenario have on the sharing mobility? According to a recent research study of Deloitte, the COVID-19 emergency might have a twofold impact on new mobility services.

On one hand, it could accelerate the development of some vehicle sharing options that are still considered in their embryonic stage, such as micro-mobility solutions like scooters and bikes sharing. Similar to what happened in China where, three months after the virus outbreak, the use of bike-sharing services has increased by 150%.

On the other hand, it could dramatically change the mobility solutions that are more consolidated, but whose survival is now at risk, such as car-pooling and car-sharing.

The sharing mobility sector has great potential. The development and the success of the individual models will depend on the ability of players to identify and meet society’s emerging needs.


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The ISTAT research (in Italian) is available at the following LINK.

The Moovit’s Public Transit Index is available at this LINK.

The Osservatorio Nazionale Sharing Mobility report is available at this LINK.

The Deloitte report is at the following LINK.