Imo that should simply be disambiguated. Right now, at low “funding”, you end up making money. But that’s not how that ought to work.
You ought to be able to do two separate things:
- Invest in these utilities
- ask for usage fees
You could but don’t have to make any of these utilities free.
Technically you could also be selective about it. Like, here most rail would not make a profit, so it’s subsidized to make it viable. But there is a couple lines that are profitable and those aren’t subsidized. I understand that kind of nuance would be very hard to fit on the current model though.
Also it still seems silly to me that any of these are all-or-nothing in terms of state-ownership. Certainly, school, healthcare and pensions don’t work that way and neither ought these utilities, unless you not only get yourself such services but also outright forbid private companies from existing (as is possible for schooling and healthcare)
The reason basically is this: If you invest without having to worry about costs, you can provide these services to far more people (and, since these are utilities, also companies). You don’t have to keep costs down. If you want to build a rail station in Nowayr (Population 3), you can do that. Is it sensible? Probably not. But while a company would never do such a thing, an extremely wellfunded governmental railway program just might.
I’d not be against, in exchange, bumping up the ceiling of possible spending. - Perhaps using a similar idea to the fusion policy. Precisely replacing private sector services should probably be about in the middle of the slider and if you move past that, cost starts really exploding, but you ought to see benefits as well.
At max cost it should be like, you attempt to provide (in case of rail) every single household with a station connecting it nationally with, say, hourly trains, such that the station isn’t further away than a 15min walk by foot. The cost would be utterly insane. Probably no amount of taxes could offset it unless you also cut other high cost policies (like pensions or healthcare) completely. But the game should allow you to do that.