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The problem

Lower Tory Street is a two-way, car-dominated street with poor visibility for motorists and pedestrians, a lack of pedestrian crossings, and increasing foot traffic due to nearby apartment developments. Several enabling factors contributed to its selection for a trial:

  • disruptions and establishment of a five-month cordon following the 2016 Kaikoura Earthquake
  • the potential future commercial redevelopment of the east side of the street
  • a desire to test ideas for creating vibrant, pedestrian-centred and resilient spaces in alignment with Wellington City Council’s (WCC) long-term plan
  • conceptual design work on the Tory Street area by Victoria University of Wellington (VUW).

How the project responded

WCC trialled a three-month space reallocation and activation of Lower Tory St in 2018. It was intended to test ideas and see how well the space was used before committing to full investment, as well as to promote community conversations around the future of the area. The planning process included three community design workshops and several VUW student-designed options on which the public were able to vote, followed by business and stakeholder consultation. The following treatments were installed:

  • temporary wooden platform seating
  • planters
  • painted asphalt and art installations.

These were used to:

  • limit vehicle speeds and access to one-way only
  • reallocate space assigned to car parking
  • pedestrianise and activate the street.

Modifications to increase loading zone and short-term parking access, slow vehicles, and discourage skateboarding on the platform seating were made partway through the trial based on community feedback. The trial ended two weeks early due to clashes with the WCC resealing/repaving schedule. The wooden platforms were repurposed for a community project as the end of the trial.

Families playing on the platform seating

Families playing on the platform seating. Credit: Wellington City Council.

Walking down Lower Tory St

Walking down Lower Tory St. Credit: Wellington City Council.

What was learned

A detailed evaluation was conducted to understand how the trial changes impacted the use and amenity of the street, and the trial successes and failures. It included stakeholder surveys, business owner and key informant interviews, observation of pedestrian behaviour using time lapse images, public feedback cards distributed in the activation area, community safety and wellbeing data collected by WCC, traffic management feedback, and community feedback.

The key findings were:

  • reduced reported vehicle use
  • low pedestrian traffic, but high engagement with the trial features
  • the activation was most popular on Sundays, at lunch times, and when it was sunny
  • the lack of cycling facilities made riding contra-flow difficult
  • business and resident concerns around vehicular access and parking
  • mixed public perceptions of the changes, with some reporting vibrant, joyful scenes and others a lack of engagement and vibrancy
  • the wider road network coped well with the changes.

Issues and areas for improvement were:

  • lack of a clear problem that the activation was responding to
  • disconnect from existing disruptions (e.g. the earthquake cordon before it was removed) as well as permanent future plans (e.g. unconfirmed future redevelopment), so the activation was experienced as another unnecessary disruption after a period of normalcy
  • absence of community leadership and vision
  • large size and scope of the activation relative to the number of pedestrians in the area
  • the activation was trialled during cold months (April-June)
  • not enough intensive early observation and monitoring.
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