San José State University - Spring 2009

ENVS 178/ URBP 178/ URBP 256 - Professor Asha W. Agrawal

Policy Effectiveness Analysis Assignment

Due date:

For URBP 178/ENVI 178 students, this assignment will be due on April 30, before class begins.

For URBP 256 students, the assignment is due on either April 23 or April 30, before class begins.


When decision makers consider adopting a new policy approach to a problem, one of the first questions they ask is: Will it work? Say Happyville traffic engineers want to replace some traffic signals with roundabouts to reduce accidents. The Happyville city council will want to know if their multi-million dollar investment is likely to have a significant impact on safety.  Or say that the Garden Plains Aldermen want to put in speed humps near a school to reduce traffic speeds, but they hesitate to do so, given the strong opposition from the fire department, unless they are sure the humps will actually have the desired speed-reducing effect.

Planners are often asked to evaluate the potential effectiveness of a new policy under consideration, and one extremely useful technique for doing so is to review existing research.  This assignment gives you a chance to learn more about the effectiveness of a transportation policy of your choice at the same time that you practice your skills at finding and evaluating research. In particular, you will work on developing three skills:



The memos will be graded primarily on:

  1. The quality of the analysis.

  2. The clarity, organization, and grammatical correctness of the writing.

  3. Whether or not the memo covers all the topics specified. 

The class presentation for URBP 256 students will not count towards your assignment grade unless you fail to give the presentation on the date it is due, in which case you will be penalized by one full letter grade.

Also, if you do not complete Task 3 on time, you will be penalized one full letter grade on the final assignment.

This assignment is worth 30% of your course grade.

Sample Table of Notes for a Literature Review

Document Study Location Date Data Collected Methods Key Findings Likely Limitations Other Notes
Ko & Lu 1998 Montana 1997 Counted deer killed at 3 locations with crossings & 3 without crossings 20% decrease in deaths, overall, at locations with crossings Me: Only 18 deer killed overall.  Since so few deaths occur anyway, the sample size is too small to be very meaningful?  
Young 2006 Florida 2000-2005 Counted unicorn deaths at 17 road locations before/after wildlife crossings put in
No observable change in unicorn deaths from the crossings - Authors observe that traffic on the 17 roads increased greatly after the crossings were put in, so maybe overall the crossings helped?
- I wonder if it is possible that dead unicorns vanished before researchers noticed them?
My notes aren’t too thorough, so I should reread article carefully . . .
Nowakowsky 2009 CA, OR, WA 2005-2007 Counted deer deaths at 102 locations, before/after wildlife crossings put in Deer deaths went from 289 before crossing, to 139 deaths after crossings ?? Nice large sample size – seems like a reliable study?

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Page last modified: 26 February 2009