Hd — Fresh Start Out with rail, in with buses. This being the time of year when in-and-out lists are all the rage, it’s only appropriate that the Valley’s government and business leadership affixes its own stamp on solutions to the area’s transportation problems. Valley rail, of course, has been out for some time nudged aside by political bickering and funding cuts. It’s finding an alternative to a subway or light-rail line that’s been the elusive question. During the recent Valley Transit Summit, attention focused squarely on the old-fashioned bus except with a twist: Having a system of “dedicated busways” that can move buses along at a much faster clip than if they were stuck in general traffic. The buses would have their own thoroughfares everything from traditional street lanes to flyovers in which they could travel above congested intersections. Combined with other public transportation systems, such as van shuttles, existing bus lines or even Metro Rail, the busway system holds the potential to move passengers across the Valley floor in a timely fashion even in rush hour. A pipe dream? No one is in a position to say at this early stage, not even skeptics like Valley activist Richard Close. Similar busway systems in Houston and Curtiba, Brazil are reported to be successful and Mayor Richard Riordan whose staff members have visited the Curtiba operation clearly is intrigued. So are Assemblyman Robert M. Hertzberg, D-Van Nuys, Rep. Howard Berman, D-Mission Hills, and a number of other locally elected officials so intrigued that there’s talk of state and federal funding for the project. We’re more than intrigued we’re thrilled, not so much by the busway plan in particular as by the increased show of unity among Valley officials. “What you have (now) that was lacking in the past is real recognition that everyone is pulling in the same direction,” said former Assemblyman Richard Katz, who has followed local transportation issues over the years (and who is now running for state Senate). Now comes the hard part: Taking the goodwill that’s been generated in recent weeks and developing a specific plan that can generate broad-based public support. Then, taking that support and presenting it to officials in Sacramento and Washington. Clearly, this is no small task. Already, there are leaders like Close who question the busway concept. And even those who like the concept might have problems with the proposed applications and funding requirements. Even under the best of circumstances, this is certain to be a costly, protracted process that will require considerable support from federal officials as well as the willingness of the Metropolitan Transportation Authority to provide the Valley with a little more independence to cut its own transit deals. Despite Riordan’s support, the MTA board is not partial to sharing power, especially if it involves a plan that’s centered on buses, not rail. But for all the roadblocks, Katz was correct when he noted that much of the Valley is coming together on this issue. That’s a start.