Transit Tuesday: Stewart Schwartz

Washington, D.C. Captain, United States Navy (Retired) and Coalition for Smarter Growth

I served during the Cold War as a mission commander on land-based anti-submarine patrol aircraft (the P-3C Orion). When the Berlin Wall came down and the Soviet Union dissolved, I turned my focus to working on sustainable land use and transportation.

I think a number of experiences influenced my arrival at my post-military career and my focus on advocating for better transit and more inclusive and sustainable communities.

Like so many Americans, I grew up in the suburbs where you had to drive everywhere for everything. Actually, if we live in the suburbs when we’re young, parents have to drive us everywhere for everything.

It was at college and my Navy ROTC program that I first used buses to get around the university and at the San Diego’s Navy bases where I did my summer training. Many sailors who didn’t own or couldn’t afford cars depended on the buses (and the nation’s first modern light rail/trolley) to leave the base during their liberty (time off).

Local workers absolutely depended on the buses and the trolley in San Diego, as they tried to navigate that big, sprawling region. I saw how sprawl impacted people, and knew there had to be a better way for our regions to grow. 

So, I began my advocacy career in 1996. In 1997 we founded the Coalition for Smarter Growth. Our vision is a network of walkable, bikeable, inclusive, and transit-oriented communities as the most sustainable and equitable way for the Washington DC region to grow and provide opportunities for all. We’ve been huge proponents of our region’s bus and rail systems.

Our entire staff relies on Metrorail, Metrobus and other local bus systems to go to meetings and events. We work with other transit advocates, including disability groups.

We ride the bus with people, including veterans, who absolutely depend on transit to get around. The other night, I was coming back from an event in DC and struck up a conversation with a fellow rider at the bus stop. Turns out he was a fellow veteran, living in a nearby affordable apartment building. He uses a walker, depends on transit, and was taking the bus to go to the grocery store. This is exactly who we’re working for to make transit in the DC region even better.

We’re also working for better transit as a tool to fight climate change. The Defense Department sees climate change as a national security threat. So I see my life coming full circle. We need transit and walkable, transit-accessible communities if we are going to reduce the amount we have to drive, slash our greenhouse gas emissions, AND protect our nation.

We need transit to provide people, including our veterans, affordable access to jobs and opportunity, and to food and health care. That’s why it’s essential that our leaders start putting transit first and why it would be a game-changer for people if Congress would start funding transit operating costs. It would make such a difference for Congress to ensure our veterans and all Americans have access to well-funded, reliable, and frequent transit.

I am a proud veteran and proud supporter of better transit.

About Transit Stories

Transit Stories” is a series of real-life experiences with public transit in the U.S. We feature the first-hand experience of public transit riders from across the country. From large cities to small towns, we will document the experiences of the millions of users of busses, trains, ferries, and other forms of public transit in the US. Public transit is essential to our communities, to cooling the planet, to advancing equity. Transit is essential to our very lives.

There is a unique opportunity for the country to make a historic investment in public transit funding to help the country build back better. 

For media inquiries, contact Doug Gordon,



A project of Just Strategy