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In 1952, William Vickrey devised an innovative system of turnstiles for the New York subway - but it never became a reality. So how did it help make the modern world?

In 1952, economist William Vickrey devised an innovative system of turnstiles to help solve a major problem on New York’s subway network. It never became a reality, but, as Tim Harford explains, the idea behind it has had a major influence on how companies decide what to charge us for goods and services today.

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10 minutes

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Mon 28 Oct 2019 04:50GMT

Image credit

William S Vickrey, pictured in October 1996 (Credit: Jon Levy/AFP/Getty Images)

Sources

Jacques H. Drèze 'William S. Vickrey 1914 - 1996: A Biographical Memoir' National Academies Press 1998

Ronald Harstad 'William S. Vickrey'

'1904 to today: See how New York City subway fare has climbed over 111 years' Mashable 22 March 2015

William S. Vickery 'The revision of the rapid transit fare structure of the City of New York: Finance project' New York 1952

Levy, Daniel and Young, Andrew T, 'The Real Thing: Nominal Price Rigidity of the Nickel Coke, 1886-1959' Journal of Money, Credit and Banking, Vol. 36, No. 4, pp. 765-799, August 2004

William S. Vickrey 'My Innovative Failures in Economics' Atlantic Economic Journal 1993

Jaya Saxena 'The Extinction of the Early Bird' Eater 29 January 2018

John Koten 'Fare Game: In Airlines' Rate War, Small Daily Skirmishes Often Decide Winner' The Wall Street Journal 24 August 1984

Dug Begley 'Almost $250 for 13 miles: Uber's 'surge pricing'' Houston Chronicle 30 December 2014

Nicholas Diakopoulos 'How Uber surge pricing really works' Washington Post 17 April 2015

Constance L. Hays 'Variable-Price Coke Machine Being Tested' The New York Times 28 October 1999

David Leonhardt 'Airline Tickets Can be More in June than in January. But Soda? Forget it' The New York Times 27 June 2005

David Schaper 'Are $40 road tolls the future?' NPR All Things Considere 12 December 2017

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