by Stacey McLachlan. Photo submitted. Originally published in the Spring/Summer 2023 issue of Business Class magazine.
The next time you’re in Victoria and need a ride, Matthew Boyd, MBA ’20, has you covered—or at least the transit service he helped create does.
As the director of corporate and strategic planning at BC Transit, UVic MBA grad Boyd works daily towards a lofty goal: to make public transit the best transportation solution for communities and individuals across BC.
But creating accessible, reliable transport for BC Transit’s 1.8 million customers is no simple task. Effective urban planning and big-picture strategy are required to anticipate the current and future needs of the community—all while balancing out the small, day-to-day hurdles as well.
And then there are the blue-sky goals. Though public transit is already an environmentally sustainable mode of transportation, BC Transit aims to further reduce its environmental impact by continually finding ways to improve fuel efficiency and reduce emissions.
This sort of civic-minded, community-oriented, sustainability-first public service may seem like the antithesis of the business world—but for Boyd, business studies were absolutely essential to give him a fresh perspective on a challenging sector.
Boyd graduated from UVic in 2004 with a geography degree, and landed an entry-level role at Coast Mountain Bus Company. He climbed the ranks steadily, and when he moved back to Victoria (his hometown) in 2012, he slid neatly into a similar position at BC Transit. Undertaking transit planning for the region was compelling, meaningful work, but by 2016 he began to wonder if it was time to up his education.
Most colleagues and friends suggested he pursue a planning graduate degree, but one mentor challenged him with an alternative idea. “They said, ‘you’ve already spent 15 years studying planning in your career. What will you gain from a masters in the same subject?’” Boyd recalls. “Instead, I looked at what my experience gaps were, and that really shone a light onto the opportunities of an MBA program.”
The weekend MBA at UVic’s Gill Graduate School would fit around his work schedule and put him in the mix with fresh people and ideas. He began his studies in 2018, and today, degree in hand, he calls it “one of the most rewarding experiences, personally and professionally, of my life.”
Though he laughingly describes the program as “exhausting,” Boyd is clear-eyed about the impact of his studies on his work. “It changed my perspective on strategic planning, helping me see the forest from the trees,” he says. “The MBA helped me sharpen the lens, providing the tools, processes and support to see the bigger picture.”
Boyd now views his decisions not just from an organizational perspective, but a global one. “If you make a choice here, it has an impact elsewhere. The program really enforced the connectivity of everything,” he says.
With BC Transit’s vision to be “Your Best Transportation Solution,” thinking big was absolutely vital. How could the organization be most efficient and effective in moving large volumes of people? BC Transit is also committed to creating a zero-emission fleet by 2040, and so improving the availability of transit options was crucial to help make taking the bus a no-brainer choice. “We want to provide a fast, reliable solution to help someone decide not to use a personal car,” Boyd says. “Ultimately, every footprint counts.”
Sustainability in the transit world isn’t just about carbon output, though; it’s about creating livable, safe communities that are built to last. Boyd notes that affordability, accessibility and the rural-urban divide are some of the other key issues his team considers when developing strategies. “It’s important to get people to their places of work, to connect them to their community, to their shopping, in a safe, reliable, affordable way. In the absence of transit, how would people access those things? How would people age in place? Our doors have to always be open to everyone.”
One tangible solution from Boyd’s team began in April with the first-ever rapid bus service connecting Victoria’s West Shore to downtown Victoria. “We’re striving to be competitive with the automobile for comfort, reliability and speed,” Boyd says. “We want to boost service to have as much frequency as possible, because frequency is freedom: people want to walk to a station and know a bus is coming very, very soon, and to have amenities to make the entire experience safe, comfortable and easy.”
Boyd and his team are making substantial strides and leaving a legacy in their wake, but his impact on his community carries on far beyond the office. In addition to his day job, Boyd is a writer (he writes his own weekly Lead It Cool newsletter), a speaker and now an educator as well.
Specifically, as a new instructor for UVic’s Master of Global Business, Boyd has the opportunity to share his unique mix of real-world experience and academic learnings. “You think you’re going to be so relieved when you’re done with your MBA, but the truth is, you can never relax in the same way,” he says. “You become addicted to learning and taking on new challenges.”