Critical Thinking Reflection

Visual of the Texas A&M Transportation Institute Headquarters in Bryan, TX

Visual of the Texas A&M Transportation Institute Headquarters in Bryan, TX

BLUF

During my time at the Texas A&M Transportation Institute, I was allowed to draft a report for Texas policymakers to propose a long-term mobility strategy that would be the most cost-effective for the State of Texas. By using my critical thinking skills, I was able to engage in sound data analysis and in-depth research to draft a sixty-page report indicating the best long-term mobility strategies for the State of Texas.

The Project

In the Fall 2019 semester, as a Texas A&M Transportation Institute intern, I was tasked with researching and narrowing down cost-effective transportation strategies for Texas policymakers. The transportation strategies were to be analyzed using a funding gap analysis to pinpoint the most cost-effective transportation strategy that would be intended to last until 2035. With the support of the funding gap analysis, submitting the correct approach to policymakers was crucial to the future of the Texas transportation system. This is because the policy that would be ultimately proposed to politicians would be the foremost strategy all major cities in Texas would invest in, therefore affecting entire communities and populations in Houston, Dallas, El Paso, San Antonio, and Austin. To draft this report, I had to research the available statistics on over sixty transportation strategies that have been used in Texas thus far. I then had to compare and contrast each statistic generated in Texas with similar figures across the United States to get a full-bodied picture on the effectiveness of the strategy. The figures included the overall cost of development and operations, the generated revenue for the state and local governments, and the efficiency of the policy for vehicles on the road. Statistics that measured efficiency included the average decreased travel time on the road, the average reduced fuel consumption, and the average decreased number of vehicles on the road at a given time. By taking a look at these measures of efficiency and comparing and contrasting each strategy, I was able to draft a sixty-page report on the historical and projected effectiveness of over sixty strategies.

The Finished Product

Overall, the data exhibited that the methods of shared transportation and investing in institutions that monitored traffic were the best methods for cost-efficiency in the state of Texas. Strategies such as the shuttle services, ride-share programs, vanpooling, telecommuting, and the investment in Traffic Management Centers and Transportation Management Associations showed considerable promise for long term cost-effectiveness. Although the research is ongoing, being able to practice my data analysis skills, writing skills, report writing, and memo writing was an immensely valuable part of this project. By taking the strategies I learned at the Bush School and merging them with the technical writings of the civil engineering field, I was able to draft a report which expanded my writing abilities.

 

The Takeaway

One of the biggest takeaways of this project was practicing writing a comprehensive report to a particular audience. Although I knew I was drafting a statement that would be pivotal for engineers and urban planners to understand, I also knew the primary audience was policymakers. Therefore, I had to make sure the information found in the sixty-page report was clear, concise, and easy to understand. I also had to effectively balance the amount of numerical data and word count on the report to accommodate each policymaker's potential preferred reading style. In short, I had to formulate my report to accommodate the 181 members of the Texas Legislature. By having the privilege of working on such an important project, I was able to practice my data analysis skills, my research skills, my writing skills, my audience analyzation skills, and, most importantly, my critical thinking skills. Overall, my internship with the Texas A&M Transportation Institute has been such a blessing, and this one project challenged me and improved my skills in so many ways that make me marketable in so many areas that require critical thinking skills across multiple disciplines.