Photo Credit: City of Albuquerque

Mid-sized Albuquerque Brings Big-Time Data Game

By Corey Cooper

For the City of Albuquerque, open data has become a path to open communication with the community, making a more resident-friendly city, and saving public funds. Those efforts are proving so fruitful that the City is becoming a model of best practices other cities are looking to scale.

(Back row, left-right) Mayor Richard J. Berry and the author, Corey Cooper, gather with fellow City of Albuquerque staff.

The City of Albuquerque (CABQ) was an early adopter in the open data movement when Mayor Richard J. Berry launched the City’s first open data portal, ABQ Data, in 2012. The initiative quickly garnered acknowledgment for its transparency, including in the Economist’s article “Transparent government; Sunshine or colonoscopy?” that discussed the then-newly launched portal. The story highlighted the City’s open data sets on city employees’ salaries and the Mayor’s monthly credit card statement in order to communicate the administration’s commitment to transparency in public-sector spending. Creating a more open government has continued to be a priority of our open data initiative.

Helping Residents, Saving Public Funds

The ABQ RIDE app helps Albuquerque residents know when to expect city buses and is saving the City money by reducing 311 calls. Photo credit: Flickr (smart_growth).

Albuquerque’s open data initiative has also been a success through data-informed innovations to improve access to residents’ city services, for example, the creation of the civic-tech app ABQ RIDE. By mining information on Albuquerque’s largest 311 request—“Where’s my bus?”—the City was able to release machine-readable, real-time data on the GPS coordinates of all CABQ buses. Analysis of those data coupled with the use of ABQ Ride have now saved the City over $1 million and decreased 311 calls by 50%, from 1.04 million calls a year in 2012 to fewer than 500,000 calls in 2016.

Albuquerque, like most cities, has continued to adapt in order to meet modern technological changes and reach constituents in new ways. One important step was to launch the Department of Technology and Innovation (DTI). The DTI implemented a “two-speed” strategy; one section focused on the day-to-day IT operations of the city, and the other section looked at the best/next practices of civic technology to better meet the community’s needs. The DTI has taken on several internal and external projects, including updating an archaic enterprise resource planning system, launching an online permitting process, and preparing for sensor-based networks and driverless cars.

A Mid-sized City with Scaleable Solutions

Albuquerque, compared to larger cities such as New York City and Los Angeles, is a mid-sized, 600,000-resident municipality. This gives Albuquerque the nimbleness to bring a larger portion of the City’s services online more quickly, adapt to disruptive technologies, and more effectively evaluate programs with data to inform future policies. Albuquerque has positioned itself as a scalable model of best practices for larger cities to adopt.

The Albuquerque Heading Home Initiative, a multi-agency partnership to end chronic homelessness and create permanent housing solutions, is a prime example of successful data evaluation leading to adoption by other major cities. The collaborative, Housing First model has been able to house 610 individuals and their families, and doing so has been 31.6% cheaper than allowing those individuals to remain homeless, amounting to over $5 million in taxpayer savings. This is just one of many examples of how Albuquerque is pioneering the way government programs are evaluated by stressing the use of data analysis.

Partnering with What Works Cities

(Second from right) Mayor Berry discusses how cities can use data to address inequity, on a panel at the 2017 What Works Cities Summit. The panel, which was moderated by (left-right) former Philadelphia Mayor and WWC Advisor Michael Nutter, also included Syracuse Mayor Stephanie Miner and Michael Smith of the Obama Foundation. Photo Credit: Craig Warga.

Albuquerque is a national leader in adapting and deploying new technologies, but we can still improve on many fronts. We began partnering with What Work Cities (WWC) in October 2016 to enhance an early priority around open data with help from one of the initiative’s partners, the Center for Government Excellence (GovEx) at Johns Hopkins University. With GovEx’s technical expertise, the City has already established an open data governance team, created an inventory of data sets, and began drafting a governance structure. This structure will update the current ABQData portal to a 2.0 version by implementing best practices that are being developed and tested across WWC’s 80-city community.

(Right) Mayor Berry meets with experts from What Works Cities partner the Behavioral Insights Team. Photo Credit: @Mayor_Berry.

Along with the City’s cutting-edge open data work, CABQ has begun deploying low-cost evaluations with the help of another WWC partner, the Behavioral Insights Team (BIT). With BIT’s assistance, more than 40 employees have been trained in low-cost evaluations and utilizing behavioral insights for A/B testing. BIT helped the City design and launch several trials around reaching out to local businesses, empowering city employees at every level to suggest cost-saving or more efficient policies or practices, and encouraging potential police cadets to stick with the long application process to become an officer.

Going Forward

Mayor Berry has self-imposed a term limit on his appointment, leaving himself with less than a year in office. There is so much great work left to be done with only a few months to do it! Partnering with WWC—through its partners at BIT and GovEx, as well as Results for America and the Sunlight Foundation—has given this administration technical expertise and a national perspective. The administration is sprinting to finish multi-year initiatives, multiple technology upgrades, and $300 million in infrastructure projects. At the same time, we are also continuing to embed transparency measures into Albuquerque’s government to ensure that current data- and evidence-based initiatives are sustainable beyond this administration. And we will continue to implement evidence-based policy decisions to guide the way and set up the next administration—and the city as a whole—for success.


Corey Cooper has been with the Berry Administration since 2015 and currently serves as the Deputy Chief of Staff. In that role, he spearheads several of the administration’s philanthropic initiatives and cross-sector partnerships, including with What Works Cities and the Albuquerque Living Cities Integration Initiative. He works with department directors and external stakeholders to implement the Administration’s priorities on open data, local procurement, innovative service delivery and racial equity. Corey holds an M.B.A. from the University of New Mexico, with a dual concentration in Management of Technology and Finance.