Update: You Can Listen to the Episode of Forum by clicking here.
I worry about analysis like these in the Tyee. While it's nice to think that if we didn't build that heavy rail line we could build x more miles of streetcar lines, it's really not that simple. Mostly because they serve two different purposes. You can't just say we can have 8 miles of streetcar for a mile of heavy rail, because what is happening is your trading short trips at a slower speed for longer trips at a faster speed. It's necessary to have both.
This morning I was listening to forum on KQED and one of the callers said it was absurd that he couldn't get from Sunnyvale to Berkeley in 2 hours. This is due to the lack of express trains between major destinations. In a better transit system, you would have Caltrain bullets stopping only at places like San Jose, Palo Alto, and San Francisco. Then it would go in it's own tube to Oakland and Berkeley. This is an expensive service due to the tube and electrification etc, and would likely generate calls to spend money more "cost effectively". They would say, why not build 400 buses or the next big trade off. The problem is you need both. In order to make transit useful, there need to be short trips and long trips made easy.
Now I know there is limited funding, but we need to start thinking like non-transit wonks think. And they think, why can't I get from a to b in under an hour if it takes that long in my car. Transit has to be competitive time wise, whether you're trying to hop a few blocks to get a bite to eat or going to a different city in the region.