BUSES ARE to be given greater priority on town and city roads in a bid by Minister for Transport Noel Dempsey to cut journey times and increase passenger numbers.
Some city streets will be blocked to cars, while traffic lights will change on demand for buses, and private cars will be blocked from making right turns that can delay traffic flows, under the plan to be launched later this month.
Mr Dempsey is placing the bus "at the heart" of the effort to cut Ireland's unsustainable carbon dioxide emissions, sources within the Department of Transport insisted.
State subsidies will be offered to both Bus Éireann and private bus operators to create new routes in difficult areas, but only if the companies systematically increase the numbers of passengers.
Some existing routes operated by Dublin Bus and Bus Éireann will have to be redrawn to "maximise" the use of resources - though it is not entirely clear what this will mean in practice - while other routes not passing through city centres will be created.
Mr Dempsey will launch the Sustainable Transport Plan 2009-2020 at the end of January with 50 key recommendations to cut CO2 emissions and ease traffic jams. More feeder buses to Luas and Dart stations are proposed, though Mr Dempsey recently refused to pay for extra buses in Dublin until 40 key traffic hold-ups are removed.
In the past, sources said, transport was "all about cement and road building", but CO2 emissions and traffic congestion are now "dictating policy". Ireland must cut 20 per cent off its 2005 transport CO2 emissions to abide by European Commission targets.
By 2012, bus users in the capital will be able to use a €10 million GPS system to check arrival times of the next bus by mobile telephone and internet.
Under the plan, the public will be able to use one "smart" card to travel on all Dublin bus and rail systems by next year.