At this time of night, it takes the Route 170 bus just 27 minutes to rumble from Osborne Station to the University of Manitoba. They pass in the closest a city gets to silence, a voiceless lullaby sung by the wheezing bus heater and the whine of its engine.

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This article was published 15/2/2017 (1522 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.

Opinion

At this time of night, it takes the Route 170 bus just 27 minutes to rumble from Osborne Station to the University of Manitoba. They pass in the closest a city gets to silence, a voiceless lullaby sung by the wheezing bus heater and the whine of its engine. 

There are four passengers aboard at 1:19 a.m. Three of them are engrossed in whatever they're doing on their phones; the fourth stares ahead through the windshield, his brown eyes blankly watching the road.

Nobody else gets on the bus in those 27 minutes. Nobody gets off until near the end of the line, either.

It's like someone hit the pause button; other than the driver, there's no movement, save for fingers tapping phone screens.

So it's a typical night on the 170, one of the brisk Winnipeg Transit routes that run from downtown through south Winnipeg's residential huddle and onto the U of M campus. These are not the routes that usually keep transit drivers up at night, worrying. 

During the day, after all, it's just shuttling clouds of bleary-eyed students to and from classes. At night, maybe it's just taking a handful of tipsy undergrads from the Pembina Highway bars back to their dorms. 

Or, maybe there's no one. On some nights, maybe this last crawl down King's Drive belongs to the driver alone. Maybe the driver lets out a tired sigh, reaching the end of the line. Maybe thinking about going home. 

The 170's driver threads the bus into the heart of the campus, near Dafoe Road. "Last stop," he calls. 

Doors slide open. The last passenger steps out. It's almost 2 a.m. and the U of M is a ghost town. Its buildings are bathed in blue moonlight, looming and silent. Shadows from scattered street lamps make art of the sidewalks. 

There, in the snow, beside some old ticket stubs from Fame nightclub and other detritus of student life, candles throw a glow onto a photo of a man holding a baby. 

His full name was Irvine Jubal Fraser, but friends called him Jubal. He was 58 years old, and a grandfather. He'd worked more than 20 years for Transit, and at work he was easygoing and jovial. 

He'd booked off Valentine's Day, telling friends he planned to spend time with his wife. Over the years, the couple had been through a lot. In 2012, they lost a daughter. Later, they suffered a major house fire. 

A photo of Irvine J. Fraser near where he was killed at The University of Manitoba.

GREG GALLINGER / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS

A photo of Irvine J. Fraser near where he was killed at The University of Manitoba.

He was attacked just around the corner from where this bus just stopped, almost exactly 24 hours ago. There are bare patches of sidewalk, where crews scrubbed the blood that stained the ice and the snow. 

That morning, word spread quickly through the ranks of the city's bus drivers. Fraser is the first Winnipeg Transit operator to die as a result of violence on the job. In solidarity, Transit workers begin circulating a new motto: "One life is too many." 

Many of Jubal's colleagues woke up to the news buzzing on their phones Tuesday. Before police or Winnipeg Transit had publicly confirmed the sickening story, many drivers and other Transit workers already knew. 

In texts and whispers, they reviewed the few facts they had: Jubal was dead. There was a pool of blood in the snow at the U of M. A 22-year-old man had been arrested. But as for the "why," police remained tight-lipped. 

Candles and flowers and a single photo make up the small shrine left in honor of Irvine J. Fraser.

GREG GALLINGER / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS

Candles and flowers and a single photo make up the small shrine left in honor of Irvine J. Fraser.

Some drivers' minds flicked through the situation. Well, they thought, Jubal was at the end of his shift. He would have been about to change electronic readout on the bus — SORRY, NOT IN SERVICE — and take it back to Transit's Fort Rouge garage. 

Sometimes, they thought, riders get angry when a bus hits the end of the line. Sometimes, riders think a bus just keeps going forever. It was just before 2 a.m., so maybe add alcohol to the mix. Along with the silence, and the isolation. 

In fact, a police source would later describe details of the attack to the Free Press almost exactly like that. And the description was, in slightly less detail, confirmed by police Wednesday morning.

The suspect was riding the bus with friends; police believe all were intoxicated. At some point, his friends left. The suspect lingered at the back as the bus pulled into the U of M.  

Fraser parked and walked to the back, telling the passenger it was the end of the line and he'd have to go. He reached out to escort the man off the bus. Suddenly, the situation escalated into madness; the suspect pulled out a large knife and began hacking. 

It is beyond senseless. It rips at the fabric of the world that we know. How can a man's life be so savagely stolen? And how, after this horror and blood on the snow, can we look at bus drivers and not worry? 

There will be a reckoning. Now, it is time for a long look at Transit driver safety. It is time to raise money for Fraser's family, and there are two GoFundMe accounts that have been set up to support them. None of it can undo the crime, though. 

Around the corner from where Fraser was attacked, candles are still flickering. Their heat has melted perfect circles in the snow, below a makeshift memorial hung around a blank transit sign: BUS STOP — DISCONTINUED. 

Tucked inside a slim bouquet of purple flowers, there is a handwritten note. 

"We may have differences," it reads. "You are still one of my brothers."  

 

melissa.martin@freepress.mb.ca 

Melissa Martin

Melissa Martin
Reporter-at-large

Melissa Martin reports and opines for the Winnipeg Free Press.

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