Taniguchi: The end of an era means new beginnings

A head shot of Department of Transportation Director Harold Taniguchi.

(Note: Below is an email that Director Harold Taniguchi sent to all Department of Transportation employees today)

Dear colleagues,

At the end of this month, the nearly quarter-century history of our King County Department of Transportation will come full circle.

The department was first created by Executive Gary Locke in 1996 to bring together the related functions of Transit and Roads in King County under one roof called Transportation. Other lines of business were added, and over time our staff strength grew to more than 5,000 today. It is a bittersweet moment as the Department of Transportation now must evolve again, to meet the business needs of the 21st century.

A photo of Department of Transportation Director Harold Taniguchi on a Metro bus.
King County photo by Ned Ahrens

Over the past 22 years, we can be proud of the major accomplishments of KCDOT:

  • Metro, now recognized as the premier transit agency in the country, has for several years been a national leader in the move to zero-emission transit, growing from 94-million daily trips in 1996 to the most recent figure of 122-million.
  • Road Services designed and built an entirely new, state-of-the-art South Park Bridge, while maintaining its network of 1,500 miles of roads and 182 bridges. And we have experienced first-hand the challenges of an outdated financial structure incapable of supporting our pressing infrastructure needs.
  • The King County Water Taxi has grown from a pilot project initiated by the County Council, to a separately-governed Ferry District, to the Marine Division of today. It’s now an established commuter service for residents of West Seattle and Vashon Island while carrying nearly 600,000 riders a year.
  • The Airport Division reconstructed its runway which was damaged in the 2001 Nisqually Earthquake, and now conducts more than 180,000 operations a year for Boeing and the public, ranking King County International Airport/Boeing Field among the top 20 general aviation airports in the nation.
  • Fleet Management has fostered improved relationships with customers through a culture of continuous improvement, culminating in its recognition this month with the Executive’s Performance Excellence Award for cost savings.

With Metro Transit standing up as its own department, the Airport and Fleet Management going to the Department of Executive Services, and Road Services becoming a part of the new Department of Local Services, the year has been a busy period of transition. The final touches are now put into place, so I offer my sincere gratitude and congratulations to everyone involved for making it all happen so seamlessly.

A picture of Department of Transportation Director Harold Taniguchi and former Deputy Director Laurie Brown.
Department of Transportation Director Harold Taniguchi and former Deputy Director Laurie Brown.

My time with King County has been a blessing. From my early days as an intern in the County Executive’s Office over 35 years ago, to my last days closing up the Department of Transportation, the lessons learned, the memorable moments, and the wonderful people I’ve met will all hold a very special place in my heart. People make the difference, and King County has never let me down.

Thank you all for your service, dedication, and support. Over the years, I have seen first-hand the many, many facets of your work, and have remained impressed with its quality. Leading this department has truly been an honor, a role I did not take for granted and one I thoroughly enjoyed. It was the best job in the world.

Department of Transportation Director Harold Taniguchi stands aboard a King County Water Taxi.
King County photo by Ned Ahrens

Of course, none of our accomplishments would have happened without the great supporting work of the Director’s Office. I have consistently relied upon the efforts of this fine team, and you have performed your role with unmatched dedication. To the KCDOT division leadership, which is dispersing into many directions, thank you for making things happen … on the ground, on the runway, on the water, over the wheels, and on time. A special thanks to Executive Constantine for his leadership and many years of support, and to Laurie Brown, my partner in crime for the past decade plus. I have been very fortunate to have worked with you all.

We can all feel good about closing the doors on the King County Department of Transportation. Looking ahead, I know great things will continue to come from the talented employees of King County. Please consider me your top cheerleader! Have a Happy Holiday season!



With a RapidRide F line bus in the background, Department of Transportation Director Harold Taniguchi waves.
King County photo by Ned Ahrens