Strathcona County Transit
In 2007 at the age of 30, Matthew Carpenter became one of the youngest transit executives in North America when he took the position of director at Strathcona County Transit (SCT), in a suburban municipality outside of Edmonton, Alberta. Today, Carpenter leads a dedicated team of 160 individuals who operate the county's fleet of 81 buses. SCT has an annual budget of about $16 million and carries around 2.7 million trips annually on conventional and paratransit services.
Since he arrived at SCT, Carpenter has found many opportunities to be creative while learning the ins and outs of municipal politics, transit operations and his own leadership abilities.
In 2008, SCT unexpectedly transitioned to fully in-house operations after 30 years of contracted service. The transition happened with no disruptions to service and cut staff turnover by about 60 percent. Also in 2008, SCT expanded local bus service to 11,000 residents without additional bus purchases, demonstrating a new approach to logistics and a commitment to efficiency in the face of the economic downturn. These efforts paid off: Between 2007 and 2010 customer satisfaction jumped 25 percent.
In 2010, SCT worked with Alexander-Dennis Ltd., local regulators and other municipalities to introduce the first double-decker bus in the province as a demonstration project to provide more seating on the system's popular express routes. SCT's latest achievement has been winning a $13.6 million competitive "GreenTRIP" grant to construct a large bus terminal and park and ride lot. Currently, SCT is finalizing its first transit master plan.
A planner by trade, Carpenter began his career with the MPO in Detroit, SEMCOG, where he got a formative start in transit by helping to develop the Motor City's 2001 Transit Plan, a blueprint for an extensive BRT network in a region of 4 million people. He recalls it as a great introduction to rapid transit technologies, public involvement and politics. In 2001 he partnered with a Detroit design firm to design an ultra-light bus for an entry in the FTA's BRT Design Competition.
From 2002-2004 he earned a Master’s of Urban Planning from the University of Michigan with a focus on regional transportation planning. While at university, he received the APTA Hall of Fame Scholarship Award in 2002 with an essay about new ideas for managing transit - ideas he has since been able to put to the test.
Carpenter also enjoys helping others learn about transit. In 2006 he led a workshop on transit and land-use for Michigan state legislators, and was a panelist at a youth transit conference in 2011. Since 2008, he has worked closely with elected officials as a technical advisor for the regional planning body in the Edmonton metropolitan area. As a young leader, he is increasingly seeing success by helping others grow and succeed, a principle he hopes to apply for many years to come in the transit industry.
“Working on the BRT plan for greater Detroit convinced me that advancing public transit could be a rewarding and satisfying career. The opportunity to work in both the United States and Canada has given me a new perspective on how social and cultural norms influence travel behavior.”