"Vogliamo i mezzi pubblici."
Translation:We want public transportation.
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Strictly speaking, "public transport(ation:US)" is trasporti pubblici, while mezzi (= "means") refers to the vehicles. But even in English we sometimes confuse the two, as in "the buses are disrupted today". European city transport is typically multi-modal (buses, trams, metro, etc.) so it is natural to refer to them together with words like mezzi.
"Mezzo" is the equivalent of the word "means" in English. A "mean" can be a middle, or average (as in the difference between statistical "means" and "extremes"), or it can be a way or mode of doing something (as in a "ways and means committee"). The Proto Indo-European root of both words, "*me-," means "between" - which makes sense in all cases.
A similar English word would be "medium," which can also signify both "middle" and "means," and comes from the same root.
Excellent question. Answer 'Yes!' In fact it would be less likely to cause confusion. Il trasporto pubblico = public transport as a generic concept. I trasporti pubblici refers to the whole public transport system of a geographical area (anything from a town to the whole country). It's what you'd ask about at an information desk.
Mezzo pubblico is short for mezzo di transporto pubblico (means of public transport) and in the singular it can refer to a public service vehicle. Duo's sentence actually implies "we want buses, trams, etc." and is as much a complaint from citizens as a sensible query from tourists. Better to ask dov'è l'autobus per ...?
The plural is used for generic transport (-ation in the US). Hence i mezzi di trasporto su ferro = rail transport.
this is really confusing to students at this point in the lessons. Previous to this you used 'trasporti pubblici' and now you have 'mezzi pubblici'. Instinct for this is to say 'public means' but the student may not know that it is 'public means of transportation' aka 'public transportation'
"Trasporti" is more formal, so in normal conversation you're more likely to use "mezzi". According to google "trasporti" is losing popularity even in writing: https://trends.google.com/trends/explore?date=all&geo=IT&q=%22mezzi%20pubblici%22,%22trasporti%20pubblici%22
Well, that's complicated, because the italian verb "volere" is used with different meanings, and this leads to different english translations (and apparently Duolingo cannot deal with this).
you can use "volere" if you want something (or something to happen): "io voglio una mela" (I want an apple, a little bit unpolite, but correct)
you can use "volere" if something is needed: "ci vuole un cacciavite" (it needs a screwdriver).
you can use "volere" if a specific amount of time is required: "ci vuole mezz'ora per andare al lavoro" (it takes half an hour to get to work)
As you can see, completely different meanings (different translations), same italian verb. This is pretty confusing, I suppose (I'm italian).
For this specific sentence, the correct english verb is "to want" :-)
Hope this helps.
In Google's corpus it shows up from from 1899 to 1908, then disappears until 1954 when it takes off, probably the time when private vehicles became commonplace. In Treccani it's meaning 2b: generic name of the various kinds of vehicles destined for transportation of people or things... in this sense "mezzo" is often used elliptically with no other specifications.
P.S. Digging a bit further in Google Books, I found an act from 1826 concerning free travel for poor people, where "mezzo di trasporto" is used extensively, although the elliptical shortening to just "mezzo" is probably post-WW2.