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The Southeastern Pennsylvania Transportation Authority (SEPTA) set a new regional rail ridership record in fiscal-year 2013, which ended June 30. For the year, 36,023,000 trips were registered on SEPTA's 13 rail lines, a 2.2 percent increase compared with FY2012's total, the agency announced yesterday.During the past 15 years, SEPTA's regional rail ridership has increased 50 percent, with annual ridership climbing from 24 million to 36 million trips. "Aggressive" efforts in recent years to improve SEPTA's aging infrastructure, as well as customer service-focused initiatives, have helped the authority attract and retain new riders, said SEPTA General Manager Joseph Casey in a prepared statement. The addition in recent years of 120 new Silverliner V rail cars, which replaced mid-1960s-vintage vehicles, also helped."We will continue work on efforts to improve the customer experience, which is helping drive this sustained ridership growth," Casey said.The ridership spike comes at a time of significant funding challenges at SEPTA. For the fourth-straight year, SEPTA's capital budget is projected to remain at about $300 million — a 15-year low — due to reductions in state funding. The constraints mean funds aren't available for a number of key projects, such as repairs to 1930s-era electrical substations or upgrades to aging bridges, SEPTA officials say.