A Slice of Pizza Now Costs More than a Subway Ride in NYC

The pizza prices and transit fares in the city have usually correlated, according to data going back over 40 years.

Slices of pizza on paper plates
Photo: The Washington Post via Getty Images

In the summer of 1980, a New York patent attorney named Eric Bram said that he knew that subway fares were about to increase — and it was all because the cost of a slice of pizza had gone up too. "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," he told the New York Times. "Right now, it is impossible for any discerning New Yorker to find a decent slice of pizza for less than 60 cents. The 50-cent fare was doomed."

Ignore, for a second, your shock that you could jump on the subway and grab a slice for just over a buck, and keep reading. According to Bloomberg, for the first time since Bram suggested that "pizza principle," a plain slice is now more expensive than a single subway ride.

The outlet cited data from online pizza ordering platform Slice, and calculated that the average cost of a slice of "plain" (also known as cheese) pizza is around $3.14 when considering all five boroughs, or around $3.26, on average, in Manhattan. That exceeds the $2.75 that the Metropolitan Transportation Authority (MTA) charges for a subway ride.

Bloomberg also suggests that that gap could get even wider: the MTA has currently frozen subway fares at $2.75, but that's not the case for pizza prices. The reasons for that costlier-by-comparison slice of pie is a combination of gas price hikes; increased costs for essential ingredients including cheese and flour; and higher wages for restaurant staffers.

It's honestly surprising that the pizza principle held strong for over 40 years. In 2014, Jared Lander, an adjunct professor at Columbia University, did an in-depth examination of the concept. 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.

"The base subway fare is $2.50 but is actually $2.38 after the 5% bonus for putting at least $5 on a MetroCard," he wrote on his website. "So, even with the proliferation of dollar slice joints, the average slice of pizza ($2.33) lines up pretty nicely with the cost of a subway ride ($2.38)."

But times change and dollar slice joints are fewer and farther between, likely helping to tip the scales toward higher pizza prices.

Well, it was fun while it lasted.

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