The Seattle Times editorial (like most of their editorials) is stupid. It is a muddled mess. Keep extending the spine, but slow down. That makes no sense. Rail has already reached diminishing returns for the suburbs -- extending it an inch further is idiotic.
Most of the editorials on both sides seem to ignore the main issue here. It isn't rail versus bus. It is building an integrated system that can leverage the benefits of both. Bus ridership in cities with very good subways often exceed subway ridership (as in Vancouver BC and Chicago). We will never be able to afford the sort of system that exists in Washington D. C. or cities with older systems (New York and Boston). We can't build hundreds of miles of rail until every corner of the city has good service. Hell, the current plan doesn't even cover most of the Central Area, the biggest contiguous section of density
in the state. What then, for everyone in the area -- are they supposed to transfer at Capitol Hill station? Sorry, but that station is poorly placed for that. As has been the case all along, Sound Transit once again didn't consider bus to rail integration (imagine what a bus network would look like with a stop at 23rd and Madison, as was originally proposed by Forward Thrust).
Nor are they focusing on that for this round. Suburban light rail extending deep into the suburbs never works. If BART doesn't work, then it sure as hell won't work here. They have bigger, more densely populated suburbs, connected to a much bigger city with a much faster train system, yet ridership outside the core urban area is much less than a lot of our buses.
The only way you can build something that will make sense for the region is to recognize that some areas make sense for rail, and some make sense for buses. If you have a region with high density stops every half mile and intersecting transit along the way, then a train makes sense. If not, then it probably doesn't. Ballard to UW rail makes sense -- Issaquah rail does not. A subway following the Metro 8 bus route makes sense -- West Seattle rail does not. For areas like West Seattle, Issaquah, Tacoma, Everett and Kirkland bus infrastructure improvements are a far most cost effective solution. The people in those areas would be able to get to where they want to go much faster (and the improvements would be built much sooner).
Sound Transit is a political organization, focused on making symbolic improvements. Has anyone ever bothered to ask why West Seattle is getting billion dollar rail, while we ignore a rail line through the Central Area? The Central Area is more densely populated, buses travel more slowly (all times of day), stop spacing and connections would be much better. Why then are we building a line to West Seattle? Because it looks better on paper. It goes farther. Like Issaquah rail, it sounds great until you think about how much of the region really benefits. It is the opposite of what we should build -- it is quantity over quality.