1 Getting Started

1.1 Overview

This page explains how to obtain the VisionEval software and install it, and provides a brief overview of what to do with it after it is installed. Please look at the Concept Primary to learn how VisionEval can support scenario planning and help develop strategies to manage transportation system performance.

The Concept Primer and the VisionEval Tutorial found later in this book contain more complete details on setting up VisionEval models with local data, running scenarios, and extracting and analyzing results.

VisionEval runs within the R Statistical Environment on any system for which R is available. There are two paths to installing VisionEval:

  1. Install from the stand-alone Windows installer:

    1. Download a zipped folder from the VisionEval website for a specific version of R.
      This is the simplest way to quickly get VisionEval on your computer.
  2. Copy or clone the system code repository:

    1. If you area a Mac/Linux user, or if you are interested in contributing to the development of VisionEval modules, models, framework, or visualizer, choose this path.

    2. The most recent stable release is hosted at VisionEval on GitHub. Development releases are available at VisionEval-dev. Once you have downloaded or cloned one of the VisionEval repositories, you will need to build it before you can run it.

Detailed setup instructions on setting up the VisionEval runtime, or building VisionEval from the source code, can be found in on the Detailed Installation Instructions page.

1.2 Installation and Setup Pre-requisites

You will need:

Once you have R and RStudio installed, you can retrieve the VisionEval installer itself. RStudio is optional. Read on for information about how to run VisionEval within the base R GUI. Installer

Get VisionEval Here

Note: 580 Mb download! Pick the version corresponding to your R installation (4.1.3, 4.2.3, 4.3.2, etc).

The link above will download a .zip file containing the following:

  • The VisionEval framework code and sample models

  • All necessary R packages

  • Documentation (both this book as well as API documentation)

Unzip that file into an empty folder of your choice (e.g. C:\VisionEval). Completing the Installation

To complete the installation and start VisionEval, do this:

  1. Navigate to the folder into which you unzipped the installer:

  2. Double-click VisionEval.Rproj

RStudio will start, and VisionEval will load. You should see a message similar to the following in the RStudio Console:

Loading VisionEval for R4.3.2
Loading required package: VEModel
Welcome to the new VisionEval!
Running in C:/VisionEval

If the VisionEval.Rproj file does not open RStudio when you double-click it, you can start RStudio directly, then choose File / Open Project... and get to the same place. By default, RStudio remembers the project you last loaded, so having done that once you should get back to VisionEval each time you start RStudio (unless you work on a different project). Starting VisionEval Manually

If you need to start VisionEval manually for some reason, just start RStudio (or even plain R), change into your installation folder using

  • RStudio’s Session / Set Working Directory... menu option, or

  • In plain R, the File / Change dir... menu option, or the setwd command on the R command line.

Then run this instruction to start VisionEval:

source("VisionEval.R") Starting VisionEval from the RGUI

RStudio is not mandatory for using VisionEval. It is also possible to run VisionEval within the RGUI that comes with R. You will need to do that if you have no administrative rights on your machine, since RStudio requires administrative permissions to install.

To run without RStudio, double-click the launch.bat batch file (from Windows Explorer).

If you have installed R manually, you may need to set the R_HOME environment variable for launch.bat to work. You’ll know if that’s a problem if you get a message about the wrong version or R, or a batch file message saying that R cannot be found, or a Window briefly opens and then shuts without starting R.

To find the proper value for R_HOME, start the version of R for which you have installed VisionEval (it should be on the Windows start menu even if you did a non-administrative installation). Then run this R command:

You get a string that should look something like this:

[1] "C:/PROGRA~1/R/R-43~1.2"

You want to copy the part inside the quotes that says C:/PROGRA~1/R/R-43~1.2

Put that value into a User Environment Variable called R_HOME or you can edit it into launch.bat itself by replacing the default R_HOME value in that file. Edit launch.bat with a text editor (or - ugh - Notepad) and it should be reasonably obvious what to do.

If launch.bat is working, an RGUI instance should open and you should see the same startup message that appears in RStudio:

Loading VisionEval for R4.3.2
Loading required package: VEModel
Welcome to the new VisionEval!
Running in C:/VisionEval

1.3 Workflow of VisionEval

VisionEval models and the underlying software framework are written in the R programming language for statistical computing and graphics. The purpose of the model system and framework is to enable models be created in a plug-and-play fashion from modules that are distributed as R packages. A simple R script is used to implement a model by initializing the model environment and then calling modules successively. Scenarios are then constructed through a set of files that provide variant model inputs for evaluation and comparison.

To use VisionEval to evaluate scenarios, there are several elements that users need to set up:

  1. Select and install one of the VisionEval models, customizing it as needed:

    1. VERSPM – Regional Strategic Planning Model

    2. VERPAT – Rapid Policy Analysis Tool

    3. VE-State – VisionEval State-Level Model

  2. Develop a Base Model for the region under analysis. The Base Model specifies:

    1. Model Geography (zone structure), reported as Marea (metropolitan area), AZones (county-sized), and BZones (often census-tract-sized or could be related to Traffic Analysis Zones in other travel demand models) and related configuration files

    2. Base and Future Years to be evaluated for each scenario (e.g., 2019 and 2050)

    3. Local Data Files describing Base Scenario conditions in the region (including both observed base year data, and estimates of future year conditions with no scenario policies applied)

  3. Develop variant Future Actions and Scenarios, by adjusting specific input elements for the Future Years. VisionEval models support having many different scenarios. See the scenario development chapter later in this book for details.

  4. Run the model to process each of its scenarios.

  5. Extract or query the results for summarization and further analysis in R or export tabular data files to other data analysis systems.

These steps are described on other pages of this documentation.

1.4 Editing and Running Models

As described in the model tutorials, a VisionEval Model contains the following components:

  • Model configuration: visioneval.cnf

  • The model script file, typically called run_model.R (sometimes in a /scripts sub-folder), which describes the steps that will be performed when the model runs

  • Global parameters describing the model geography, preferred data units, and currency conversion deflators in the /defs sub-folder

  • Base Model Input data in the /inputs sub-folder

  • Pre-defined query scripts (in the /queries sub-folder) that can extract useful metrics from the model scenarios once they have run

  • Additional optional folders for the model scenarios (either as top-level directories or within the /scenarios sub-folder, which describe deviations from the Base Model). Scenarios may have different inputs or a different model script.

Once any of the model scenarios have been run, the model will also have a /results sub-folder. After queries have been run or raw results extracted into a tabular data format like .csv, there will be a sub-folder within /results called /output.

See the tutorial chapters later in this book for instructions on how to set up VisionEval for your study area. Typically, you will start by installing one of the standard models and then adjusting visioneval.cnf, /defs and /inputs to complete your Base Model. Once you have completed the Base Model, you can add scenarios to your model (as described later) by varying a few inputs to describe alternate future conditions.

1.5 Running VisionEval Models

VisionEval includes a simple R command-line interface for running models and extracting their results.

The tutorials later in this book will explain how to select and customize one of the VisionEval models, as well as how to develop inputs and create scenarios for your area.

Once you have received the Welcome to the new VisionEval! message, you can try things out by copying or entering the following instructions into the R Console window:

rspm <- installModel("VERSPM")
results <- rspm$results()
query <- rspm$query("Full-Query")

The instructions will do the following:

  • Install the sample VisionEval RSPM (Regional Strategic Planning Model)

    • The model has data from the small Rogue Valley MPO in Oregon

    • The model is installed in VisionEval/models/VERSPM-base

    • You can re-open the model later by using this instruction;

      rspm <- openModel("VERSPM-base")
  • Run the model

    • The results are placed in VisionEval/models/VERSPM-base/results

    • The results are in a difficult internal R format, so you’ll want to export them into something more useful for subsequent analysis.

  • Export the model results into several files in a friendly text table format (.csv) that you can open with Excel or a text editor

    • The CSV files are placed in a dated subfolder of VisionEval/models/VERSPM-base/results/outputs

    • You can export the results into an SQLite database (created in the outputs folder) by using this export instruction:

  • Run a set of basic queries to report summary model performance metrics

    • When exported, those metrics appear in .csv files in another subfolder of VisionEval/models/VERSPM-base/results/outputs
    • By default, the query output file has one row per metric and one column per model scenario.

1.6 Using the Walkthrough

Additional features of the VisionEval R interface are somewhat systematically explored in commented R scripts located in the VisionEval runtime VisionEval/walkthrough folder. The walkthrough files are most easily explored using RStudio.

Once you have seen the message “Welcome to the new VisionEval”, you can set up the walkthrough by running this instruction:


The walkthrough will create a special runtime directory (within your main runtime folder), so nothing you do while trying it out will affect any of your “real” models, which will remain untouched in your “models” directory.

To explore any of the walkthrough scripts:

  • Open the script in the RStudio script editor by navigating in the RStudio “Files” pane to the VisionEval/walkthrough directory, then double-clicking one of the scripts.

  • Select individual lines in script editor and press “Enter” to run that line in the console. You should run the lines in order (“walk through them”) and not skip any! The commented lines (starting with “#” describe what is going on).

If things get messed up because you didn’t run the walkthrough lines in order, it’s usually enough to back up and run the lines you skipped. If you need to, you can reset the walkthrough by starting it like this:


Be careful: the “reset=TRUE” instruction will clear the walkthrough runtime. Anything you saved there (including outputs from running and exporting the test models) will be lost. Your regular runtime models directory will remain untouched.

Here is an overview of the walkthrough files and what you will learn from each of them:

  • 00-walkthrough.R : Master list of walkthrough scripts (nothing specific to run here - it’s just a script listing the other scripts)

  • 01-install.R : How to install various VisionEval model sample from the packaged examples

  • 02-running.R : Running (or re-running) a VisionEval model

  • 03-extract.R : Getting raw results (or a subset) from a VisionEval model

  • 03A-advanced-export.R : Exporting to other file formats (SQL or Excel)

  • 04-scenarios.R : Working with model scenarios - this is about running them, not setting them up

  • 05-queries.R : How to run queries to generate summary metrics of model results (including sets of scenarios)