Italians are warming up slightly to public transportation, according to a study carried out by traffic observatory Isfort, on behalf of the local transport agency Asstra, based on a 15,000-strong sample group. The study found that in cities of over 250,000 inhabitants, people used public transportation for 29.1 per cent of their movements in 2003, up 3.2 per cent from 2000. In cities of over 100,000 inhabitants, the increase was from 23.2 per cent to 21.7 per cent. The actual number of passengers using public transport has increased by ten per cent.

Experts believe that Italy's current economic downturn has led Italians to turn to buses, trams and metros rather than private cars. A car costs 312 to keep per month, while the cost of public transport averages at 26 per month. Also, Italians are less willing to deal with the stress of driving in cities, where traffic is heavy and parking scarce, and are becoming more environmentally aware.

Nearly 20 per cent of those questioned said that they would use public transportation more if it were more frequent and more comfortable. Italians were favourable to traffic bans in historic centres (82.3 per cent consent), more bus lanes (85.9 per cent) and car pooling (72.9 per cent), but 63.1 per cent were against imposing an entry toll to city centres.

Rome is on par with Paris when it comes to public transportation use, but is far behind other European cities, led by London, where 56 per cent of journeys are made with public transport, Stockholm (56 per cent), Madrid (54 per cent) and Vienna (36 per cent). Rome's rail-based public transportation which is seen as the most sustainable form is weak at 29 per cent, compared to over 60 per cent in Paris, Barcelona and London, and over 80 per cent in Vienna.