A trial to improve an inner city Hamilton street by introducing brightly coloured planters, a cycleway and street furniture to the detriment of car parks is drawing criticism before it has even officially opened.
The trials on Ward St and Rostrevor St are two of 70 projects that received a share of $29 million of funding from Waka Kotahi NZTA as part of its Innovative Streets pilot launched after last year's lockdown.
The purpose was to trial ways of making streets safer and more people friendly.
The Hamilton trials have cost $902,750 with NZTA picking up 90 per cent of the bill and Hamilton ratepayers the remaining 10 per cent - the same formula used for all the pilots.
But Hamilton City Council has already received a raft of mostly negative feedback since it started making the temporary changes.
The council has attempted to make Ward St, between Anglesea St and Tristram St, a nice place to visit, shop and travel on by introducing cycle lanes, outdoor dining areas, planter boxes, artwork and events.
Several streets away, Rostrevor St near Founders Theatre has been closed to traffic and is now littered with some street furniture, brightly coloured planters and a skate ramp.
However, as part of the trial 40 car parks on Rostrevor St and 24 on Ward St have been removed causing a big headache for businesses in the area who say customers have nowhere to park and it is hurting them financially.
The majority of the parks had been part of the council's two-hour free scheme and the 12 that are left on Ward St have been reduced to just 30-minute parks or shorter.
Hamilton City Council transport and urban mobility programme mobility lead Martin Parkes said instalment of the Ward St trial was only just being completed and time and space was needed for the community to adjust.
"Ending the trial early would undermine and impact our ability to deliver a permanent solution that meets the needs of all people."
The trial for Rostrevor St began at the end of March and will end on July 3, while the end date for the Ward St trial is in the process of being finalised. The streets are not expected to return to their original states as successful elements of the trial will stay put, Parkes said.
Hamilton mayor Paula Southgate organised an urgent meeting with council staff and affected Ward St businesses this morning after "a lot of negative noise" about the trial particularly around restricting access to businesses and the lack of parking.
Businesses near Rostrevor St had also raised similar concerns as they relied on through traffic which had disappeared due to the closure of part of the street.
Southgate said the council had no plans to scrap the pilot, but would look at tweaking it to maximise the benefits such as the cycle lane as well as minimising the negative impact on the businesses.
The council didn't want put businesses under such pressure and had agreed to meet with the businesses in two weeks' time to review it. It was also setting up a pop-up office in Ward St within the next so people could raise issues with staff, she said.
Hamilton deputy mayor Geoff Taylor said the trial needed to be abandoned because it was a "big departure of common sense" and the city could do much better.
Taylor said all six businesses directly affected by it were struggling and questioned how long they could make them suffer while the council did its tweaks.
He said it didn't make sense to have two cycle ways at the sacrifice of a lot of parking when there was also a 30km speed limit in place.
Waikato Chamber of Commerce chief executive Don Good said it was difficult to understand what the council was trying to achieve with the Ward St changes and the chamber was concerned about it causing extra congestion around the CBD.
Good said the chamber would be interested in seeing the traffic data collected by the council because early indications were "it was not working".
But Hamilton councillor Sarah Thomson said the trial hadn't even officially opened yet and while they had taken comments about the lack of car parking onboard, there had also been positive feedback around the pedestrian crossing and reduced speed limit.
Thomson said there was never going to be enough car parking in the CBD so council's challenge was looking at supporting other modes of transport too.
The 70 pilots implemented around the country have had mixed results.
Auckland's Maungakiekie-Tāmaki Local Board cancelled the Onehunga Low Traffic Area pilot project a month after it was installed due to hefty public backlash.
Out of frustration, people vandalised the wooden planters and other equipment installed on several through roads to create cul-de-sacs, grid locking the area at peak times.
But Waka Kotahi urban mobility manager Kathryn King said there had also been positive outcomes including speed reductions near a kindergarten in Nelson of 37.5 per cent and an increase in the number of children safely biking to school in Cambridge due to a separated bike route. Thames had also gained a new gathering place after replacing a dangerous intersection with a town centre plaza.
"By testing various changes on streets with communities before committing to major investment, councils have been able to check whether they're getting the direction of change right, quickly make adjustments when needed and ultimately create environments that are good for our health and take care of our environment."