Yesterday’s exercise on ST3 budgeting was unclear enough to prompt a friendly email from ST spokesman Geoff Patrick. So I’d like to clarify that subarea equity isn’t a matter of strictly dividing money along subarea boundaries; I’ve always understood it to be a negotiation process based on the interests of each subarea. For example, I’d expect Pierce County to contribute a significant portion of any run from Federal Way to Tacoma, as that segment is a much higher priority for them than for South King County. As Mr. Patrick put it:
State law on this topic is mainly about reporting. As long as a ballot measure identifies where the funds originate and are spent, Board members can define equity in whatever fashion they believe serves constituents. Note that the past ballot measures have included investments outside subarea boundaries spanning all three of our transit modes, and particularly Sounder and ST Express. The decisions weren’t about where the service is located but about desired destinations and what the Board understood the priority for each subarea to be. It is only after a measure passes that its provisions become legally binding, and a future ballot measure doesn’t have to use the same approaches as past measures.
Emphasis mine. Given the limited value of Snohomish County rail to other subareas, and the limited value of the other projects to Snohomish County, I don’t think it in practice affects my choice to dimension the project according their needs. But it does provide would-be package builders with more flexibility if they can make plausible arguments that a project outside a boundary serves that subarea’s direct interests.