NYC pizza slice price overtakes MTA base fare

Misheel Bayasgalan

The average price for a slice of pizza in New York City now exceeds the base fare for the Metropolitan Transportation Authority.

The news, first reported by Bloomberg, breaks away from the decades old theory of “pizza principle” proposed by New York City resident Eric Bram in 1980.

“Since the early 60’s the price of a slice of pizza has matched, with uncanny precision, the cost of a New York subway ride,” Bram told columnist Glenn Collins of The New York Times.

For years, the “pizza principle” has accurately predicted the average price of a pizza slice and the MTA fare in relation to one another. More commonly, it could predict a change in MTA fares based on pizza prices.

The principle was further tested in 2014 by Columbia University statistics professor Jared Lander, who performed a comprehensive study of pizza prices and the subway fare, finding it to be applicable.

“He used listings from MenuPages to find the price of plain cheese slices at over 1,800 pizza joints in New York City, determining that the average price was $2.33,” journalist Jelisa Castrodale reported in Food & Wine. The MTA base fare in 2014 was $2.50, according to the Citizens Budget Commission.

The current MTA base fare is $2.75. It is set to remain this way due to New York State Gov. Kathy Hochul’s proposed state budget, which is increasing MTA funding to avert fare hikes for the rest of 2022, according to the New York Post.

The average price for a single slice of plain cheese pizza in the city as a whole is $3.14. Slice, a New York-based online ordering service for independent pizza parlors, shared the average price in every borough, as follows: $3.15 for the Bronx, $3.06 for Brooklyn, $3.26 for Manhattan, $3.15 for Queens and $3.12 for Staten Island.

It’s clear that $3.14 is greater than $2.75. This break in the “pizza principle” occurred most likely because the MTA fare was capped while production costs of pizza were not. Factors in making pizza include the costs of ingredients, commodities and labor, all of which have been affected by inflation.

Due to COVID-19 and an imminent economic recession, inflation is affecting every aspect of the pizza-making process. The consumer price index in the United States rose by 8.5% in March 2022, the highest number since December 1981.

The average price for utility gas has surged 24% for urban consumers nationwide in the past year, cheese prices have increased 10% over the last three years and flour prices have increased 11.6% in the past year alone while other increases have been noted in the price of tomatoes and fat/oil, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.

The Russian invasion of Ukraine also seems to play a role in the hiked prices. Crude oil is at record high prices as U.S. President Joe Biden stopped Russian energy imports. Since February 2021, wheat prices have increased 7.8% by the same time this year since Russia is the largest global wheat producer while Ukraine is the fifth-largest, according to Business Insider.

In addition, the average wage in New York’s food industry has increased from $7,228 to $8,447 between the third quarters of 2020 and 2021, according to the New York State Department of Labor.

All these factors increased the fixed costs associated with pizza making, forcing pizzerias to increase their product prices. New Yorkers might want to savor their bites of pizza while they can at current prices.