Skip to main content
U.S. flag

An official website of the United States government

"Where the sidewalk ends": sustainable mobility in Atlanta's Cascade community

Formally Refereed
Authors: Cassandra Johnson Gaither, David Himmelfarb, Sarah Hitchner, John Schelhas, J. Marshall Shepherd, Binita K.C.
Year: 2016
Type: Scientific Journal
Station: Southern Research Station
Source: City & Society


Roughly one third of U.S. greenhouse gas emissions are travel-related, and much of these are from routine, short trips that can be controlled by individual consumers. Because of this, sustainability advocates encourage greater use of alternative transportation modes such as mass transit and non-motorized transport to help limit carbon dioxide emissions. However, the efficacy of such prescriptions is contingent upon the social and physical context of a given place, that is, how these recommendations are received or put into practice by the intended audiences. This case study of Atlanta, Georgia’s mostly African American Cascade community examines the influence of the broader social context of consumption as social practice and the built environment as factors influencing decisions about sustainable mobility (i.e., mass transit use and neighborhood walking), both inside and outside of Cascade. Not surprisingly, lower income residents routinely use mass transit, while middle-and upper-income earners are reluctant users of Atlanta’s mass transit system (MARTA). Lack of use by those with higher incomes is due mainly to the availability of personal automobiles and inefficiencies in system design attributable to a history of racial politics that restricts MARTA to just two of metropolitan Atlanta’s twenty-eight counties. Neighborhood walkability is encumbered by the lack of sidewalk space for higher income individuals and fear of crime for those with lower incomes. The social practice of status signaling via automobile purchasing may also inhibit African Americans’ use of mass transit. [Climate Change; African American Communities; Atlanta, GA]


Johnson Gaither, Cassandra; Himmelfarb, David; Hitchner, Sarah; Schelhas, John; Shepherd, J. Marshall; K.C., Binita. 2016. "Where the sidewalk ends": sustainable mobility in Atlanta's Cascade community. City & Society, Vol. 28(2): 24 pages.: 174-197. 24 p. 10.1111/ciso.12077