Good news for SEPTA riders: The next general manager of the transportation agency commutes by train to Center City and has a particular issue with cleanliness.

Or rather trash on trains and buses.

Joseph M. Casey, SEPTA's chief financial officer and treasurer, was introduced as the agency's next leader at a board meeting yesterday.

Casey, 51, said customer service would be a priority, with keeping buses and trains clean a "focal point."

"I want to address that issue," he said, meeting reporters for the first time as general manager. "Now that we have our budget problems behind us, we'll be able to improve things for customers."

He is taking over an agency that historically has struggled with an ancient infrastructure, increases in the cost of doing business, and budget woes.

During most of this decade, the agency has had to pass budgets with gaping holes that had to be filled with bailouts from Harrisburg.

As SEPTA's top financial executive, Casey also oversaw scheduling, route planning, long-range planning and marketing.

Pasquale T. Deon Sr., SEPTA's chairman, said Casey "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."

Although SEPTA has existed as a separate entity since 1964, it has not had a dedicated funding source until this year, when Pennsylvania lawmakers created the Public Transportation Trust Fund. Supported by toll revenue, the fund aims to help mass transit throughout the state. For SEPTA, and now Casey, that will reduce the likelihood of annual showdowns in Harrisburg over funding.

The agency said Casey had contained SEPTA's budget growth to 3 percent a year despite skyrocketing health-care and fuel costs. He will be paid $202,000 - the same salary, he noted, as his predecessor's - to oversee the nation's fifth-largest transit agency. With an operating budget of $1.2 billion and a workforce of 9,000, SEPTA provides more than one million trips every weekday on buses, trains, subways and trolleys in the five-county area.

Deon said Faye L.M. Moore, who will depart as general manager in February after six years in the job, would leave "a legacy of stability and great potential for the future."

Casey has spent his career in transportation. A native of Delaware County and graduate of Drexel University, he worked for Conrail before joining SEPTA in 1982.

In a statement to the board of directors, Casey said, "The past several years have been very challenging, working to end the cycle of budget shortfalls and struggling to gain predictable funding."

He said two major independent audits in the last two years had "concluded what we always knew: SEPTA is well-managed and efficient."

Ridership is up 2 percent, including about 9 percent for the regional rail line, he said.

With the improvement in the agency's financial stability, Casey said, he wants to move ahead with plans to replace tickets and tokens with a computerized "smart card."

Joseph M. Casey

Age:

51

Education:

A graduate of Cardinal O'Hara High School in Marple Township, he received a bachelor of science degree in accounting from Drexel University in 1979.

SEPTA career:

He joined the agency in 1989. As its chief financial officer and treasurer, he also oversaw scheduling, route planning, long-range planing and marketing.

Goal:

Improve customer service by enhancing courtesy, cleanliness, communications and convenience.

Contact staff writer Jennifer Lin at 215-854-5659 or jlin@phillynews.com.