State and local governments are seeking to lease elements of public infrastructure to close budgetary gaps. Private capital markets find any items of public infrastructure that have an actual or potential revenue stream attached to them attractive. Favored items include water and sanitation systems, toll roads, airports, parking structures, etc. Because these individual items of infrastructure are vital components of larger transport and public service networks that support modern urban life, their true value resides in the broader externalities that the networks create. Once private control of these individual items of portions of the network are privately monopolized, an inherent disjuncture emerges between the long‐term goals of the private bondholders and the needs of urban regions to maximize the positive social, environmental and economic externalities of the infrastructure network. This paper explores the long‐term implications of this new political economy of public‐private finance for sustainability, social equity and economic efficiency through a review of recent experiences.