Questioning the spatial association between the initial spread of COVID-19 and transit usage in Italy

Document Type

Journal Article

Publication Date


Subject Area

place - europe, ridership - commuting, planning - personal safety/crime


COVID-19, Public transport, Commuting, Quantile regressionItaly


Within the much broader framework of global interest, the dilemma concerning the real impact of mode of transport on the spread of COVID-19 has been a priority for transport stakeholders and policy-makers. How dangerous is it to move around a certain territory? Does the danger depend on the mode of transport? By considering a novel and detailed dataset at the level of local labour markets, we analysed the spatial association between the pre-pandemic propensity to use public transport and excess mortality in Italy attributable to the initial spread of COVID-19. We found that places characterised by larger commuting flows exhibit higher excess mortality during the first wave of the pandemic, but observed no significant spatial association between excess mortality and transit usage. Our results were obtained by considering a wide range of heterogeneity in the estimation of quantile regressions across a variety of specifications. Although we do not provide a definitive answer concerning the risk associated with transit use, our analysis suggests that mobility, not modal choice, should be considered a main driver of the initial contagion.


Permission to publish the abstract has been given by Elsevier, copyright remains with them.


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