Death Of The NYC ‘Pizza Principle’ Has Economists Clutching Their Calculators

Gone are the days where a pizza slice was the same price as a subway ride...

Death Of The NYC ‘Pizza Principle’ Has Economists Clutching Their Calculators

Image Credit: Evan Sung

In 1980, Eric Bram wrote a New York Times article that gave economists the brilliant ‘Pizza Principle’; a simple method to predict when New York City subway fares would increase. Bram claimed that “since the early 60s the price of a slice of pizza has matched, with uncanny precision, the cost of a New York subway ride.”

Bram was actually pretty spot on, and in the forty-two years since that article was published, indeed the price of pizza has more or less always matched the fare of a subway ride.

Until now, that is.

New York’s Metropolitan Transportation Authority (MTA) capped subway fares at US$2.75 per ride at the end of February in an effort to encourage New Yorkers to start regularly catching subways again after a huge ridership decline thanks to the COVID pandemic. The MTA also announced that this ‘cap’ on fares would last until at least June; potentially longer, as due to recent state funding, subway fares shouldn’t have to increase at all in 2022.

In stark contrast, the price of a slice of pizza has done nothing but go up. According to Bloomberg, on average, a slice of cheese pizza – which NYC locals call ‘plain’ or ‘regular’ – will cost you US$3.14. And prices could soon become even higher than that.

Thanks to the pandemic, prices of common pizza ingredients have gone up, and thanks to the whole Russian invasion of Ukraine, gas prices have gone up too, – most New York pizzerias cook with natural-gas ovens – meaning that pizzerias have really had no choice but to increase prices; otherwise, they’d barely break even.

Manager (and son-in-law of the owner) of Pizza Palace, a beloved pizzeria in Manhatten, Panos Kakanas even said:

“We talk about raising prices on a daily basis.”

While it’s fantastic news that subway fares won’t increase for quite some time and it’s completely understandable why the average slice of pizza has gone up, we have to admit that the idea of something named the ‘Pizza Principle’ – which is so damn cool – no longer having any merit is a bit disheartening.

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