Niigata Station Bandai Entrance Bus Terminal is the last surviving major switchback style bus terminal in Japan. Service will end in late 2022 as the old Niigata JR East station is demolished and rebuilt as a raised station with a new rotary style bus terminal.
Traffic News has an interesting article that describes the Niigata layout, and traffic challenges. Switchback bus terminals were standard in pre-war Japan but in the postwar era as cars become commmonplace, switchbacks were replaced with rotary style bus terminals. While switchback does have downsides, one advantage is that many buses can park in a small space as explained in this interesting Japanese video, and because the layout is extremely compact, transfers are easy.
One unusual aspect of Bandai Entrance bus terminal is that not all lines terminat there. For some bus lines it is mid-point, through passengers experience the switchback maneuver en route. The Niigata drivers do this many time each day and back up the bus easily, quickly and precisely. I was lucky to video the operation which is fascinating to watch.
The new Niigata Station and bus terminal will undoubtedly have advantages when it come to making bus to train connections, however the easy old ‘walk to the bus parked next to me’ bus transfer will not be one of them.