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Students Develop Transit System for City in Mali

March 21, 2011 – Four Georgetown students traveled to Mali over spring break to perform a feasibility study and meet with government officials about implementing a new public transportation system in the capital city of Bamako.  

The project grew out of a fall semester policy seminar called “Science and Society: Global Challenges,” part of Georgetown’s Science in the Public Interest (SPI) program.

“These students exemplify what we're trying to do in the SPI seminars,” says Francis Slakey, who co-directs the program and teaches the seminar. “They think outside the textbook, get outside of the classroom and help build a better world."


Sean Quigley (SFS’12), left, Joseph Luk (SFS’11), center, and Michael  Barclay (C’12) in Bamako, Mali, where these  students and Anthony Conyers (C’12) developed a new  public transportation system for the city.

Helping Bamako

Throughout the semester, student groups in the seminar picked a global challenge, conducted research and proposed entrepreneurial options to fund their goal.

Michael Barclay (C’12), Anthony Conyers (C’12), Joseph Luk (SFS’11), and Sean Quigley (SFS’12) focused on meeting growing global energy demand, chose public transportation as their subject and identified Bamako as a city that would benefit greatly from a public transportation system.

“I am so glad we went on this trip, not only for the purposes of the report, but for going and seeing a [developing] country and learning about how people get around and how they live on a day-to-day basis,” Barclay says.

Young Entrepreneurs

The students say their proposed system, called Bus Rapid Transit, is cheap, easy to maintain, and would lower energy usage and traffic fatalities.

The four students proposed their idea to several foundations, and received a grant from the Richard Lounsbery Foundation.

Slakey says the grant took him by surprise. “Every group builds toward some final moment, and for these students that moment was actually taking their idea and pitching it to a foundation,” Slakey explains. “The intention was just to put them in front of a tough audience, but obviously they got a [more] positive result.”

Research Report

The four students conducted their own research in Bamako by studying the city’s existing private bus transportation system, talking to residents and examining traffic patterns in the city. The students now plan to compile the information they gathered during their trip and submit a report to the Lounsbery Foundation.  

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