To the question, what kind of city do you want to live in, there is one inevitable answer, but in my certainty, I feel many of my possible futures already foreclosed.
The answer, of course, is London; it could not be another place wherein I know the majority of the bus numbers, cycle routes and the remaining few ticket stations with no barriers. Postcodes of former lovers, old jobs, the houses of friends’ parents and teenage nights out rattle through my mind wherever I am travelling around my home city.
So the answer to the question is London, but it is also not London, because London as it currently stands and how it is projected to be for the future is not the city in which I grew up, nor is it the one in which I want to live. I have several ideas about how to improve the city, all of which are currently unlikely and may well be rejected with a sneer and a guffaw were it to be read out in front of those who have been trained for office from the moment of the silver spoon.
The first thing this city needs is a rent cap that is instituted at a significantly reduced rate to what rents are now. Yes, rent prices are affordable insofar as some people can get it together at the end of the month, but it actively harms the future prospects of the city, with so much of our time wasted on second jobs on the other end of the tube line and night shifts on our laptops to pay landlords and estate agents who collect our sweat and tears, for no other reason than the vague hope that one day they too might not be oppressed by their mortgages. Imagine how creative the city would become with a rent cap.
The second thing this city needs is free, minimum Zone 5-wide, Wi-Fi. I am done with trying to eek a bit of internet out of McDonald’s— their free Wi-Fi resembles access to the internet in the same way their penchant for photographs of green leaves resembles some kind of link between themselves and the environment. It’s plainly embarrassing that London purports to be a city of the 21st century and most of us have to keep buying an extra £1.99 of internet three weeks into every month.
The third and final thing is free public transport. This is the most radical of the demands I have laid out to save London from certain death of financial asphyxiation and will prompt the loudest guffaw. But it is not impossible, nor is it unwise. Microsoft and Google fund the majority of Seattle’s public transport. Cities are made up of people and people need to move freely in order to create and communicate, I see no reason why Londoners should not demand the same scheme.
My suggestions would need the inclination of the Mayor’s office, which might baulk at such interventionism, but using the state to get you out of a fix was considered perfectly fine during the winter of 2008, so it depends which city you want to save and for whom do you want to save it.