Review ordered into safety on Winnipeg transit buses after driver killed

By on March 1, 2017


The recent death of a Winnipeg transit driver has prompted a review of safety on city buses and how to improve it, but the head of a local union says that's not enough. (Photo by rpaterso [CC BY-SA 2.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0)],)
The recent death of a Winnipeg transit driver has prompted a review of safety on city buses and how to improve it, but the head of a local union says that’s not enough. (Photo by rpaterso [CC BY-SA 2.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0)],)
WINNIPEG—The recent death of a Winnipeg transit driver has prompted a review of safety on city buses and how to improve it, but the head of a local union says that’s not enough.

The report isn’t due for three months and the president of the Amalgamated Transit Union Local 1505 says that’s too long to wait.

John Callahan has been pushing for immediate action since driver Irvine Jubal Fraser was stabbed to death Feb. 14 when he tried to get a passenger to get off the bus.

The man had been sleeping and was the only passenger left when Fraser pulled up to his final stop of the night at the University of Manitoba.

Callahan said the safety problem isn’t going away and something must be done right away.

He says two more drivers were threatened on the weekend and encounters occur daily.

“Another operator was threatened to be stabbed,” Callahan said Tuesday. “It’s ongoing. It’s to the point where we don’t want this to happen again. We need to be as proactive as possible.”

Callahan would like to see fare collection taken out of the hands of drivers. Dedicated transit police could mediate disputes.

“That’s something that they can do immediately,” said Callahan, who said the majority of assaults on drivers start with an argument over a fare.

A freedom-of-information request in 2015 showed more than one million cases of fare underpayment during the first year of new electronic boxes in the city.

Dave Wardrop, Winnipeg’s chief transportation officer, said the department doesn’t have the staff to make a significant change at this point. He told the committee one idea is to move more supervisors onto evening shifts to help with disputes.

Fraser was killed around 2 a.m.

Brian Kyle Thomas, 22, has been charged with second-degree murder

Wardrop said bureaucrats will try to have the report done as quickly as possible. Options such as shields for drivers are not being ruled out but would require more study, he added.

Right now, all buses are equipped with cameras and police do random spot checks.

Callahan said there are more transit employees off on long-term leave than in any other city department. The number translates to roughly one in 14 employees, he said.