San Jos� State University - Spring 2009

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

Organization Analysis


Due date: Thursday, February 26, 2009


A large number of advocacy groups actively participate in the formulation of transportation policy; examples include the American Automobile Association, the American Association of State Highway and Transportation Officials, the Highway Users Federation, the American Public Transit Association, environmental organizations (such as the Sierra Club, Natural Resources Defense Council, and Environmental Defense), and business organizations like chambers of commerce and the Bay Area Economic Forum.

This assignment gives you a chance to learn more about a particular organization involved in transportation policy. In addition, I have the larger goals of making you aware of (1) how advocacy groups function as part of the transportation policy and planning community, and (2) the importance of understanding an organization�s orientation in order to evaluate the credibility of its research reports and policy recommendations.

Task 1: The paper (all students)

For the organization you are assigned, prepare a paper that discusses the following specific issues:

  1. What policy issues are most important to the organization? (If the organization deals with more than just transportation policy, focus on the transportation issues.) Note: this task should not take up more than a paragraph or two of your essay.

  2. Who are the members of the organization and how may this influence the organization's research, activities, and policy positions?

  3. What types of activities does the organization undertake? (I.e., producing research, publishing informational papers or newsletters, putting together links to other research or information, organizing conferences or training programs, or lobbying state or federal legislators.)

  4. Does the organization explicitly attempt to influence transportation plans and policies at any level of government, and if so, how? If the organization is involved in many such campaigns, describe its general approach and give examples from one or two specific campaigns.

  5. How credible is research or other information produced by this organization?  Would you recommend relying on this organization for information and advice or not?  Is the organization particularly credible (or unbelievable) on information it puts out on all transportation topics, or just some?

    This discussion of the organization's credibility should be detailed and make up at least a quarter of the paper. 

To answer to these questions, use materials available on the organization�s web site. You may also want to call its offices to ask questions.

Make sure to cite the specific web pages or documents in which you find information, just as you would if you were writing an essay based on print materials. If you make phone calls, this information should be cited as well (see Turabian for how to cite interviews).

Paper formatting guidelines:

Task 2: One-page summary handout (URBP 256 students only)

Prepare a handout that summarizes the key points from your paper that will help your classmates understand who this organization represents, what its main activities are, and if/when/how much to trust the research and information the organization produces.

The handout should fit on one 8.5 x 11 sheet of paper.

Make sure to cite your sources properly, as needed.

Bring to class enough copies of the handout to give one to each student.

Submitting the assignment

URBP 256 students:

URBP 178/ ENVI 178 students:


I will assess grades based on (1) the quality of the analysis, (2) the clarity, organization, and grammatical correctness of the writing, and (3) whether or not the paper covers all topics specified.  �A� papers will be those that analyze and evaluate the organization and its activities, rather than merely describing what the organization does.

The handout required of URBP 256 students will not count towards the assignment grade unless you fail to prepare the handout, in which case you will be penalized by one full letter grade.

This assignment is worth 20% of your course grade.


Each student will evaluate one organization, most likely from the list below.  During class on February 5, I will match each student with an organization.

  1. American Association of State Highway and Transportation Officials

  2. American Automobile Association

  3. American Highway Users Alliance

  4. American Public Transit Association

  5. American Society of Civil Engineers

  6. American Trucking Association

  7. Community Transportation Association of America

  8. Congress for New Urbanism

  9. Eno Transportation Foundation

  10. Environmental Defense Fund

  11. Intelligent Transportation Society of California

  12. International Bridge, Tunnel and Turnpike Association

  13. Institute of Transportation Engineers

  14. Insurance Institute for Highway Safety

  15. Natural Resources Defense Council

  16. Project for Public Spaces

  17. Sierra Club

  18. TransForm (formerly TALC)

  19. TRIP: The Road Information Project

  20. Union of Concerned Scientists

Acknowledgment: This assignment is adapted from one designed by Elizabeth Deakin and Martin Wachs.

Return to URBP 256 course page

Return to Asha W. Agrawal's home page

Page last modified: 3 February 2009