The last time SEPTA needed a general manager, it promoted its chief financial officer, Faye L.M. Moore, to the top post, in 2002.

Things worked out so well that yesterday SEPTA did it again, agency officials said.

It named its chief financial officer, Joseph M. Casey, 51, to be general manager, succeeding Moore, whose contract expires on Feb. 15.

SEPTA board member Thomas E. Babcock said the committee seeking Moore's successor decided to keep the search "in-house."

"We interviewed over 20 members of upper management, and by the time we got down to the final three, it was clear we couldn't have made a bad choice.

"But we made the best choice" - Casey, said Babcock, who represents Delaware County on the SEPTA board.

SEPTA Board Chairman Pasquale T. Deon Sr. announced the selection.

"Joe is a key member of our senior executive staff, with top-level experience in many aspects of managing the authority," he said. "He has played a central role balancing the budget and maintaining fiscal stability, even during those years when we faced the toughest financial crises in SEPTA's history.

"In addition to his finance responsibilities, Joe also oversees all of SEPTA's transportation scheduling, route planning, long-range planning, marketing and operational analysis activities.

"This gives him a broad platform of experience from which to lead the authority, as we look to the future of public transportation for our customers and the region."

Casey, who started with SEPTA in 1982, said the past several years have been challenging, "working to end the cycle of budget shortfalls and struggling to gain predictable funding.

"Now, with the creation of the transportation trust fund, SEPTA can look forward to improving public transportation in this region."

Casey said his main focus will be "customer service."

"Public transit is a customer-service business, and improving these services for our riders must be our main business objective.

"I'm committed to focusing our work efforts - at every level of the SEPTA organization - to enhance courtesy, cleanliness, communications and convenience for our customers." *