Hoisted from the comments. Jarrett at Human Transit writes
You write: The idea of profitability is nonsense. If this were to be private, following the history of most transportation infrastructure investments, the first generation of investors are likely to be wiped out in bankruptcy.
If this is indeed the history of transport infrastructure investments (and recent fiascos here in Australia bear you out) why do these projects continue to find investors?
That is an interesting question. I cannot explain the irrationality of markets, but I would refer you to some excellent papers by my friend and colleague (and mathematican and transport and internet historian) Andrew Odlyzko