On June 6, I cited recent reports that indicate only minor subsidies (today's standards) in the early phases of New York city subway development. But Patrick Sullivan wrote to indicate that there may have been no subsidies. He pointed me to this site that which I had not seen. Look at the January 18, 1900, entry. The developer had posted a substantial bond.
In the days when developers would also become private operators, this made all the difference. It would not happen today. Charles Lave did once propose that consultants bond their ridership and cost forcasts. That is, of course, unlikely because in most cases no one cares. Politicians simply want the money to flow.
Nevertheless, nycsubway.org is amazing. Just the "history" section offers many gems and hours of fun. I am not enough of a NY history buff to be any more than an appreciative reader and I want to thank Patrick.
Tom Rubin points me to this site for LA's MTA, where ridership data for the agency's bus lines can be found. LA's new Expo light rail now serves just less than 11,500 boardings per day. But it cost $932 million just to build. It is being extended west for another $1.5 billion. These numbers are pathetic when compared to the performance of many of the agency's bus lines. Add the fact that local transit planners often cut bus service to pay for rail.
With rare exception, very few people object, but self-congratulation is widespread.