Having lived on both the West and East coasts, I think part of the issue re costs is what Seattle (and Los Angeles, and Portland) is designed for. They were built with a fair amount of sprawl. They are car cities, effectively — not walk cities (or certainly bus or train cities). Contrast them with Boston or New York, where walkability and good public transport is much more a fact of life. My sister lives about an hour north of Seattle, and I can’t believe how fundamentally difficult it is to get into Seattle via public transport — not real accessible, not real frequent, even though many people commute.
So some of the long bus rides and stress here, it seems to me, is that you may be trying to live in a way fundamentally antithetical to the way the city grew. Its cultural topography requires a car.
(I’m not saying that cars are ideal transportation, heaven knows. Pollution; bikes and public transport are better. Just sayin’, cultural and economic reality is what it is. Also, I was once given a piece of advice I think good. If a given task is effectively costing you more than $20/hour, it’s not worth it. So the 90-minute bus rides, which as you note eat into your personal and work life, are definitely not cost effective. Balance them against an average hourly wage, and you seem to be losing money.)
So, reading your entries on costs and transport, I do wonder if a car wouldn’t ultimately be most cost effective and more freeing. Good used cars can be purchased for under $5000 if you shop around. Car insurance depends on how often you drive — if you don’t drive much, it could be very affordable.
And frankly, cars are very empowering for people in precisely your situation. No more wondering how long it’s going to take you. No more wondering if you can stay 15 minutes more and still catch the bus. It does a lot to assure your mobility: psychological, social, and economic.