This is Joseph
Duncan Black has another post up about how nice it is to live in a city, and have a lot of options to avoid driving. I lived this way for much of my life. But now I am trying to get a child into daycare. After discovering that daycares in some cities (like mine) have wait lists that are years long (not a joke), the question of why don't you get a daycare near your house rather answers itself. I am not sure why the coordination is so poor, but it makes a big difference.
So I decided to look at a commute from home to a daycare it is possible to get into (not easily) and then to work (and back). Note that these times assume normal and fast flowing traffic (ha!), which can influence both buses and cars.
Home to daycare by car: 12 minutes
Home to daycare by bus (normal morning): 34 minutes
Daycare to work by car: 14-20 minutes (google maps gives a range)
Daycare to work by bus: 37 to 44 minutes (plus time to wait for a bus)
Presuming one spends 15 minutes doing kid drop-off and that you have exactly a median wait time for the bus on the way to work (15 minutes, as they typically come every 30 minutes) plus needing to be ten minutes early for the bus in the morning (because the bus coming early is an extra 30 minute wait) then the time to do a morning drop-off and get to work:
By car: 41 to 47 minutes
By bus: 111 to 118 minutes
Now, remember that this is doubled because you need to repeat it all at the end of the day.
A car is about 50 minutes and will likely be an hour with traffic and parking. It's more expensive but it means that if I leave the house at 7 am then I can get back home at 6/6:30 pm or so, and have worked a full day, and have a buffer in case I am delayed so that I don't have to pay overtime rates at the daycare.
By bus, that's really 2 hours each way. This assumes that all of the buses come -- one bus that doesn't adds 30 minute increments. It is common at peak times of year for buses on campus to be full and not pick up any passengers. In these cases, I might have to use a taxi occasionally, which definitely makes the cost savings seem less optimal (but noting compared to late fees). If I aimed for opening of the daycare I would leave the house at 6 am, struggle to get to work at 8 am (see buses being 30 minutes apart and occasionally they get behind) and have to leave a 4 pm to make sure that I could make it all work (and not be late to daycare). No lunch break is possible and now we have a 4 to 5 hour daily commute. It's not that any leg is insane, it is that public transit needs to be exceedingly well designed to make it efficient to do a two location trip twice a day.
Now, you might ask about daycare at work. It's at least a 3 year wait list for infant care and you get routinely bumped by priority groups (making 3 years very optimistic). I guess some people are able to plan this well enough . . . or are lucky enough to not be staff.
Now, of course, an employer could make this a priority and get that waitlist dropped. But that seems so . . . alien . . . to the way that places are run these days that I struggle to see it.
But so long as daycare is a requirement (and I am not wealthy enough to have either nannies or the ability to make one salary easily work) then it's really going to drive car ownership. If you want to improve car reliance, then this seems like a very pertinent problem and a key place to start putting in some creative thinking.