Now that he’s helping lay the foundations for the city’s first transit advisory committee (TAC), the president of Winnipeg’s transit union is “optimistic.”

It may have taken the city a while to take its first steps towards improving bus safety, but officials are wasting no time taking the next ones with a “long overdue” transit committee.

That’s according to John Callahan, president of the Amalgamated Transit Union (ATU) Local 1505, who has been anxiously awaiting and lobbying for action since February, when a Winnipeg Transit operator was killed on the job.

Operator assaults continued, and Callahan shared concerns with the media that he and ATU members felt there was not enough being done to fix the service’s safety issues.

Then, at the end of May, council’s public works committee approved a variety of safety measures, including the formation of a transit advisory committee (TAC).

Not long after, committee chairperson Coun. Marty Morantz began working with Callahan to set the wheels in motion on forming that group.

“We’ve just been spit-balling, but obviously want to get it together and come up with the term’s of reference for who will be on the committee, what the mandate will be,” Callahan said.

So far, he’s expecting the committee will include representatives from a ridership group, post secondary institutions, people who are disabled, Winnipeg Transit, and the ATU; but he wouldn’t call that list exhaustive and expects to have a clearer picture in the coming days.

Morantz and Callahan are meeting Friday to discuss the details.

“Since we are one of the only major cities that doesn’t have a TAC this is long overdue,” Callahan said, adding being late to the game does have the advantage that there are “many great examples” of transit committees in Canadian cities like Victoria, Calgary, Edmonton, Guelph, London and Toronto.

“(They’ve shown) a good public transportation system that is safe and reliable is a key in any modern city,” Callahan said. “It’s a staple, so obviously it needs attention it hasn’t been getting here in Winnipeg—I think that shows—but I’m really optimistic about the future of Winnipeg Transit as a result of this ongoing discussion.”

Callahan said the “first task would obviously be the safety issues,” but beyond that the committee will be able to focus on “making the service the best that it can be.”

Morantz said he’s keen to see the TAC organized “as soon as possible.”

“It’s a clear priority to get teh TAC establisehd right away. That’s why we’re meeting and I expect there will be a series of meetings, I want to make sure that we have the right structure in place, so when recommendations come out of the TAC they get proper hearing.

“That is, I think, a key to making sure it has a real role to play in terms of its advisory capacity.”