SPRINGFIELD, Mass. (AP) — The Pioneer Valley Transit Authority has received a state grant worth almost $500,000 to try out a Northampton-Holyoke-Springfield express bus system that would drastically cut travel times between the cities.

The pilot program that launches July 1 offers hourly service between Northampton and the Holyoke Mall, hourly service between Northampton and Union Station in Springfield, and half-hourly service between the Holyoke Mall and Union Station, from 7 a.m. to 8 p.m. on weekdays and Saturdays.

Electric buses will be used on all routes, according to the state Department of Transportation.

The PVTA already services the stops, but the new service will cut travel times significantly, agency spokesperson Brandy Pelletier told Masslive.com.

For example, existing service between Northampton and Springfield requires a transfer and can take an hour and a half by bus. The express bus service can do it in 35 minutes.

PVTA ridership was down in 2020 because of the pandemic, but Pelletier said the agency expects ridership to improve steadily as the impacts of the pandemic subside.