Public transportation dominated a public hearing to gather ideas for inclusion in next year's city budget.
Lawrence residents urged their city commissioners to climb aboard the public opinion bus Tuesday and start up a public transit system in town.
During a public hearing to gather ideas for next year's budget, commissioners heard from seven people who said the city should team with other public agencies to bring a comprehensive, fixed-route bus system to the streets of Lawrence.
"Now, it seems to me, is the time for action -- and a full-blown public transportation system," said Ed Dutton, chair of the Douglas County-Lawrence Advocacy Council on Aging. "We're at the point of making some tough decisions. It's going to cost something, and I realize that. But now's the time to act."
Dutton presented commissioners with letters of support from 11 social-service agencies, which Mayor John Nalbandian added to the 300-signature petition Mary Davidson lugged to city hall.
Davidson, representing the Lawrence Grass Roots Coalition for Social Justice, said the transit system would pay off by reducing traffic congestion and pollution while increasing access to public services, businesses and educational institutions.
Joyce Riddle said the system would help many more people than the $3.7 million Municipal Golf Course commissioners already have agreed to build.
"Even if it has to be subsidized," she said.
The only other suggestion for the budget came from Dick Rector, who wants the city to kick in $4.3 million toward the proposed expansion of the Lawrence Arts Center, 200 W. Ninth.
"Approve the city's portion for the project as soon as possible, so it can proceed," he said.
Commissioners are scheduled to approve next year's city budget Aug. 20, but they likely will discuss the arts center issue today.
Commissioners are scheduled to consider priorities for their five-year Capital Improvements Budget -- a guide for spending about $3 million a year for major construction projects -- during a study session from 5 p.m. to 8 p.m. at city hall, Sixth and Massachusetts.
Commissioners have adopted an informal $3 million annual cap for such projects to help ensure that property tax rates won't increase, Mayor John Nalbandian said.