OTTAWA -- OC Transpo's General Manager says the public transit service is "watching the nickels and the pennies very, very carefully right now" as ridership remains low.

John Manconi addressed the city's Transit Commission on Wednesday, which heard that OC Transpo saw ridership hit a new pandemic peak last month, but is still faced with a serious deficit of riders and revenue.

Speaking at Wednesday's Transit Commission meeting, OC Transpo Director of Customer Systems Pat Scrimgeour said ridership numbers climbed in September to their highest level since the COVID-19 pandemic began.

Ridership in September was at 30 per cent of pre-pandemic levels, the highest it's been since transit use cratered in March when the COVID-19 pandemic began.

"This obviously reflects the large number of people who are working from home and learning from home and not traveling to universities or colleges," Scrimgeour said. "As more customers return, we'll make more adjustments as necessary."

Ridership fell to historically low levels in March and April before beginning to slowly recover over the summer months and into the fall.

Slow recovery of ridership continues to leave revenue hole

"To be candid and blunt, we're bleeding money at the fare box," Manconi said at the meeting. "Up to four million [dollars] a week is what we're losing."

Some government funding has been sent to the city for use on OC Transpo, but the transit system was still in the red to the tune of $60 million, according to documents presented at the transit commission meeting in September.

Mancon said at the time that OC Transpo has applied to the Ontario government for additional funding and he is confident Ottawa would get it. Manconi said last month he is doing everything he can to avoid cuts to services or jobs.

That led transit commissioner Coun. Riley Brockington to tweet about how the 2021 budget will reflect the continued level of low ridership caused by the COVID-19 pandemic.

The city's draft budget, which includes transit operations, will be tabled on Nov. 4.