OPINION: Senior Wellington journalist Georgina Campbell's fortnightly column looks closely at issues in the capital.
Wellington Airport is no longer the bright and shiny destination of the city's mass rapid transit plan. Instead, it is effectively just another suburb.
That's how it should be considering the amount Wellington ratepayers will be stumping up for the $6.4 billion Let's Get Wellington Moving (LGWM) transport project.
It's definitely embarrassing the country's capital city currently doesn't have a public transport route to the airport.
Thankfully there will be a new Airport Flyer bus on the road no later than July 1, 2022 (we hope).
It's also wrong to design a mass rapid transit system around an airport connection without residents first having a fast and reliable way to get around their own city on a daily basis.
Nevertheless, the airport has featured in most transport thinking in recent times.
The Basin Reserve Flyover was pitched as a way to improve traffic flow from the airport to Wellington's CBD, which is typically a bottleneck in and around the Mt Victoria tunnel.
In the 2016 local body elections, councillor and mayoral candidate Jo Coughlan's campaign included billboards around the city saying "four lanes to the planes" and "toot for a second tunnel".
When the LGWM indicative package was announced, Wellingtonians were told mass rapid transit would run from the CBD to the airport. Communities were technically served along the way because the route meandered through Newtown first and included a stop at Wellington Regional Hospital.
Mass rapid transit was and remains LGWM's golden child. It is very much front and centre of the plan.
But just like everything else in the project, it was announced with very little detail when then Transport Minister Phil Twyford stood at a podium outside the central railway station in 2019.
Now that some of that detail has been worked through during the business case stage of LGWM's big ticket items, it's become clear mass rapid transit should no longer be about one route that goes to the airport.
LGWM Governance Reference Group chairman Daran Ponter has confirmed every option the public will be consulted on, due to be revealed in a matter of weeks, will include two routes.
One will be to the southern suburbs and the other to the eastern suburbs.
Essentially this aligns with the No 1 and No 2 bus routes, which have the highest patronage respectively.
Mass rapid transit out to the east could look like the Number 2 bus route as Wellingtonians know it today - with specific services catering to Seatoun and Miramar.
Along with the 2m and 2s equivalents, there could also be a third route that splits off the main line out to the airport.
In this respect, the airport would be just like any other suburb, but its catchment would be the rest of New Zealand.
Its terminal is just like any other front door in Wellington. When people step outside it, they are faced with the same choices about how they travel.
The airport has had several meetings with LGWM to discuss mass rapid transit, in particular its ability to accommodate a terminal.
Airport chief executive Steve Sanderson has indicated the airport is supportive of a mass rapid transit route as long as it's direct and convenient for people to use.
It's clear the airport considers state highway improvements just as important.
It's frustrating that journey times have increased due to congestion while there have been no major improvements in the corridor and roading capacity on State Highway 1 between the airport and the CBD.
The airport is currently battling a pedestrian crossing proposal at Cobham Drive due to concerns it will further increase congestion and delays.
The move away from the airport to have mass rapid transit running east and south is a clear indication the LGWM project team is thinking far more about urban development than ever before.
So it should be, considering the "liveability" outcome has the second highest weighting of all the project's objectives.
Wellington is expecting its population to increase by up to 80,000 people over the next 30 years. A mass rapid transit route to the south in particular would create an incredible opportunity for higher density development.
Light rail and bendy buses are the two options being considered for the mode of mass rapid transit.
Bus rapid transit is considered to provide for apartments and medium density development around key nodes. Light rail is expected to open up medium to high density across an urban area, with higher density development precincts in key locations such as transport interchanges.
Let's Get Wellington Moving's goalposts have shifted for the best.
The benefits of more housing and a great public transport network for daily commuting far outweigh the pride of having a world class connection to the airport.