The N&R reports ridership gains on Amtrak’s Piedmont route between Charlotte and Raleigh:

The train — owned by North Carolina taxpayers — carried nearly 163,000 riders during the fiscal year ending Sept. 30, state and federal officials said Thursday.

“It’s very satisfying to know that more North Carolinians are using train travel as an option,” said Anthony Fuller, director of the N.C. Department of Transportation’s rail division.

Other routes in the nation carried more passengers. But the Piedmont logged the greatest percentage leap in ridership — a 16 percent gain over its 2011 passenger numbers.

The Piedmont route will be part of the proposed Southeast Corridor high-speed rail line between Washington and Atlanta. With that in mind, check out the Marketplace report on the proposed Midwest high-speed rail corridor between Chicago and St. Louis, which in theory will compete will airline travel between the two cities:

Yet, not everyone is on-board with Amtrak’s chances of luring riders away from regional air service. Professor Ray Mundy, the Director of Transportation Studies at the University of Missouri St. Louis, says people flying from St. Louis to Chicago are likely transferring onto other flights, meaning they aren’t apt to take the train instead.

“So, literally the amount of people that are going from downtown St. Louis to downtown Chicago that would be affected by improved rail service…probably wouldn’t be enough fill up on 737 that Southwest flies.”

Bottom line is Amtrak can’t exist without government support.